CHARLESTON -- We believe the West Virginia Attorney General's office has been targeted by the American Tort Reform Association because General Darrell McGraw is one of the most successful Attorneys General in the country at holding members of the American Tort Reform Association accountable for violations of the law. No good deed goes unpunished.

The American Tort Reform Association like other so called "lawsuit abuse" groups is a national consortium of corporate interest financed by big business such as the tobacco and pharmaceutical industries whose purpose is to foment a legal environment that shields them from accountability when they break the law, answerable to no one, except shareholders.

The American Tort Reform Association disguises its real intentions by pretending to be a grass roots organization comprised of ordinary citizens expressing their dismay at our legal system fearful of juries that will not allow them to operate with impunity, this business financed effort is engaging in a war on our civil justice system, and convincing citizens to give up rights that are a bedrock of democracy.

ATRA is located in Washington, D.C. and has contracted with one of the nation's leading "grassroots" lobbying firms to build a coterie of local organizations that does its bidding for them. Its work is sophisticated deception aimed to dupe hard-working Americans into believing that lawsuits are not necessary and that hurt and injured plaintiffs seeking redress are the enemy of economic development. Unchecked and unfettered corporate power, accountable to only shareholders, is the real threat to economic fairness for all citizens.

Any poll paid for or conducted by ATRA, or one of its other co-conspirators, is worthless. You can phrase and ask any question to obtain a specific result. ATRA's goal is the political defeat of General McGraw. It is not ATRA's goal to provide the public with unbiased information about what is good for West Virginia consumers, but instead it wants to advance an agenda that is consistent with its own corporate interest.

The public is told that the State's workers' compensation debt is bad for economic development. The Attorney General's office has contributed half a billion dollars to eliminating such debt. The public was told that malpractice premiums were too high, and doctors were fleeing the state, so a physician mutual fund was established by the Legislature, paid for courtesy of the Attorney General's office. Somehow in ATRA's world, up is down, and black is white.

What has ATRA contributed to West Virginia?

Hughes is chief deputy attorney general for West Virginia.

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