Insuring Shadows

Posted April 23, 2004 at 4:37pm

For the past 18 months, the innocuous-sounding Citizens for Asbestos Reform has run television and newspaper advertisements in Washington and around the country calling for Congress to approve legislation to head off billions of dollars worth of lawsuits filed by Americans exposed to the cancer-causing substance. [IMGCAP(1)]

One ad airing during the past few months urged Congress to head off asbestos lawsuits and instead allow victims to pay for hospital care by tapping into a $124 billion trust fund paid for by corporate America.

It turns out that a major financial backer of Citizens for Asbestos Reform is a set of companies that stand to gain the most if Congress blocks the costly lawsuits: the U.S. insurance industry.

New documents show that the group is based out of the Connecticut Avenue headquarters of the American Insurance Association and the executive director of Citizens for Asbestos Reform is Julie Rochman, a chief spokeswoman for the insurance industry’s trade association.

Rochman said the asbestos-reform coalition, a 501(c)(4) that does not lobby Congress, has spent about $15 million on advertising since it was founded in the fall of 2002.

The group planned to spend $4 million leading up to last week’s Senate vote on the trust fund legislation. The latest round of ads are running in Washington, D.C., and eight key states, including South Dakota, home of Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D).

Rochman declined to release the names of the other organizations that fund the coalition but said Citizens for Asbestos Reform is a national organization that pays for television and newspaper advertisements on behalf of smaller, state-based organizations.

“We work with a lot of the other coalitions that don’t have the funds to buy their own ads,” Rochman said.

Other documents indicate that another influential group has been involved in the advertising campaign on behalf of the industry: Glover Park Group, the Democratic consulting group run by former White House spokesman Joe Lockhart.

A Pro-Bono Coalition. A broad coalition of television and radio broadcasters have asked the Federal Communications Commission to reverse its decision to fine U2 rocker Bono for using the f-word during the Golden Globe Awards.

In a letter to the agency, two dozen representatives of the entertainment industry charged that the FCC’s ruling that Bono’s utterance was “indecent” and “profane” is an “unconstitutional expansion of the government’s intrusion into broadcast content.”

The letter was signed by television network owners Fox and CBS, as well as several radio station owners, including Radio One and Beasley Broadcasting Group. Others on the letter include the Recording Industry Association of America, American Civil Liberties Union, Creative Coalition and the Media Access Project.

The letter is considered a formality because the groups cannot file a lawsuit against the FCC until the agency rejects the formal appeal.

The issue deals with Bono’s use of the f-word during NBC’s live broadcast of the Golden Globe Awards last year.

NBC has filed its own appeal of the decision.

 Cesar Reigns in RIAA. The Recording Industry Association of America has signed a contract with the year-old Navigators lobbying firm to represent the recording industry on Capitol Hill.

The industry retained Navigators lobbyist Cesar Conda, a former top aide to Vice President Cheney, to “promote technology-based solutions to combat piracy of copyrighted works via peer-to-peer networks.”  

Verizon Hires Former Member. Former Rep. Tom Tauke (R-Iowa) isn’t the only former Member of Congress working for the nation’s largest local phone company these days.

Verizon Communications recently hired the Livingston Group and former Appropriations Chairman Bob Livingston (R-La.) to lobby on appropriations matters, according to new disclosure reports culled by PoliticalMoneyLine.com

Livingston also recently registered to lobby for the Commonwealth of Kentucky and defense contractor Sippican Inc.