Have you ever joined a non-profit group and received a survey asking for your top priority issues, as if the group wanted your advice on where to devote their time and resources? I think most of us expect surveys like this to end up in the trash heep, let alone published on their web site. But not the National Federation of Independent Businesses. This “small business lobby group” is constantly asking members about their concerns – and publishing the results! That's a good thing, don't get me wrong. The problem is that NFIB staff are spending a significant chunk of time and resources on an issue so far down the survey list that well, sometimes it doesn’t even make the list at all. That issue would be “tort reform.”
The NFIB makes no bones about the fact that their lobbyists and staffers consider “tort reform” a very top priority. In tracking lobbying money for them, the Center for Responsive Politics takes them at their word, describing NFIB as “particularly focus[ing] on reducing taxes and regulation and instituting tort reform,” also noting, “NFIB-related contributions strongly support Republicans."
Indeed, check out their 2011 legislative victories, two out of five of which have to do with limiting victims’ legal rights (plus limiting worker benefits.)
Yet their members could apparently care less about "tort reform" and they’ve told NFIB this many times. For example, today the group released its November Small Business Economic Trends survey. None listed lawsuits, litigation, tort reform or anything like that as their “single most important problem.” In a post we wrote a few months back about the issue of “tort reform” and jobs, we talked about another more detailed NFIB survey. Here is what we wrote then:
We started to look down the list of 75 issues that are important to NFIB’s members. And we looked. And we looked. Finally, we hit #65: “Cost and Frequency of Lawsuits/Threatened Lawsuits.” That’s right, this issue ranked 65 out of a possible 75 matters that small businesses care about, just below "Solid and Hazardous Waste Disposal."
(Personally, I think solid waste disposal deserves far more attention.)