The American Insurance Association (AIA) on Thursday called statements by the Montana Democratic Party about former Montana Governor and current AIA President Marc Racicot “outrageous, shameful attempts to make political hay out of the suffering of fellow Montanans.”
In text that appears on the home page of the state party’s Web site, AIA said the Democrats completely distort and misrepresent the role and policy position of the AIA with respect to important asbestos litigation reform legislation pending in the U.S. Senate. The AIA “long has been, and continues to be, a strong supporter of solving the asbestos litigation crisis, so that true victims of asbestos exposure receive full, fair compensation in a timely fashion,” noted Julie Rochman, AIA senior vice president of public affairs.
The original goal of the pending national trust fund was to create a mechanism to provide quick, certain compensation to asbestos victims, while also providing certainty and finality to the manufacturers and their business insurers (which would provide a total of $140 billion to the fund).
According to AIA, unfortunately, as currently drafted and recently considered by the Senate, the trust fund proposal is deeply flawed; it clearly does not live up to its original promise of certainty for victims and other stakeholders. As a result, the AIA has stated a position in opposition to the bill – unless and until significant improvements to restore certainty, finality and equity are made.
“AIA member companies – not AIA staff – establish association positions on public policy, and our position on this legislation has not changed in about two years, because the bill has been essentially unimproved during that time,” added Rochman. “Governor Racicot joined AIA only six months ago. The Montana Democratic Party’s statement that the governor and AIA ‘for months actively lobbied lawmakers in Washington to kill the legislation’ is an ignorant misrepresentation of our position and work on this important issue. We remain hopeful that real reform can still be enacted. Also, to be very clear, AIA does not now – nor have we ever – opposed Libby-specific language in the legislation. The Democratic Party of Montana is flat-out lying when they say otherwise.”
Finally, the Democrats’ statement that, “[Racicot's] insurance industry used its considerable clout to win a narrow procedural vote” on the legislation is, Rochman stated, “a petty, misfired partisan shot at the former governor. In truth, nearly 70 percent of Senate Democrats, including Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), John Kerry (D-MA), and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) voted against advancing the flawed legislation. While the Montana Democratic Party seemingly would like to forget that crucial fact, those of us who truly care about actually solving the asbestos litigation crisis – rather than cruelly using it for electioneering – appreciate that both sides of the aisle agree that Congress can and should do better.”