Opinion

House Democrat courts trial lawyer donors by mocking Iowa farmers

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Joel Gehrke,Senate Judiciary Committee,Iowa,2014 Elections,Chuck Grassley

Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, urged trial lawyers to donate to his Senate campaign by reminding them that he has a legal education, arguing that Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who serves as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, does not.

“To put this in stark contrast, if you help me win this race you may have someone with your background, your experience, your voice -- someone who's been literally fighting tort reform for thirty years, in a visible and public way, on the Senate Judiciary Committee," Braley told "a group of lawyers at a South Texas fundraiser," according to America Rising PAC, a Republican organization that released video of the remarks. (Trial lawyers oppose tort reform because such legal changes would make it more difficult for plaintiffs to sue and receive jury trials, and would lower the amount of money they can receive in damages.)

"Or, you might have a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee," Braley continued. "Because, if Democrats lose the majority, Chuck Grassley will be the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee."

Braley is running to replace retiring Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. Mark Jacobs, one of the Republican candidates for the seat, accused Braley of being condescending toward farmers and faulted him for ridiculing Grassley.

“Bruce Braley's ignorant remarks are yet another reminder that he only aims to serve one group: trial lawyers nationwide; not Iowans," he told The Iowa Republican. "To insinuate that someone like Chuck Grassley, who has served this state so honorably, is not fit to be a committee chair -- because he is a just 'a farmer from Iowa' is offensive. Agriculture is the backbone of who we are as a people. I'll take Senator Grassley's common sense over Bruce Braley's expertise in suing people any day.”

Despite Braley's remarks, Grassley is not a lock to be chairman of the committee if Republicans take the Senate. There are several other senior Republicans, such as John Cornyn of Texas or Jeff Sessions of Alabama — both of whom are not just lawyers but former state attorneys general — who might want the job.

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