Congressional Civil Justice Caucus Academy Provides Congress Members with Giveaways

A Congressional Civil Justice Caucus Academy funded by industry groups and conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch is offering members of Congress and their staff free trips and meals in order to “educate” the lawmakers on controversial pro-business reforms.

A recently-formed judicial "academy" funded by industry groups and conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch is offering members of Congress and their staff free meals and trips in order to "educate" the lawmakers on controversial pro-business reforms. Photo: EJC01/Flickr

On February 10, 2011, 6 members of the United States House of Representatives announced the formation of the bipartisan Congressional Civil Justice Caucus.

The Caucus’ founding members include Co-Chairs Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Rep. Dan Boren (D-OK) as well as Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT), Rep. Collin C. Peterson (D-MN), and Rep. Lamar S. Smith (R-TX).

The Academy is launched by the Law and Economics Center (LEC) at George Mason University’s School of Law.

The LEC depends on specially-designated donations which come from a core group of about 50 corporations and foundations, including The Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, Merck, Exxon, Eli Lilly, Altria, Wal-Mart, and the conservative Bradley Foundation.

The Law and Economics Center has also received donations from Verizon, GlaxoSmithKline, State Farm, Johnson & Johnson, Conoco Phillips, Google, Pfizer, Boeing, AT&T and 3M — every one of which has been the target of at least one class action lawsuit since 2009.

The CCJC academy is connected to Congress via the Congressional Civil Justice Caucus. They share the same goals, but are at the same time separate entities.

According to promotional materials, the caucus academy aims to provide “rigorous and balanced education programs on a range of civil justice issues for the benefit of the general public and members of the U.S. Congress and their staff.”

During the past three months, the CCJC academy has organized invitation-only gala dinner for legislative branch staff at the impressive Reagan International Trade Center and a closed symposium on Capitol Hill and a lavish. The two events were free for attendees.

The next event is goint to be is a three-day getaway — no cost to attend — for senior congressional staff in colonial Williamsburg.

George Mason University’s status as an “institution of higher education”. It means that the University enjoys a special status in House Ethics Rules, so does the CCJC Academy.

This was especially clear from the invitation to next month’s staff retreat, where the exception for universities from the traditional gift ban on multi-day travel was prominently featured.

According to an invitation and an agenda for the October retreat, participants will be “educated” on “civil justice issues” by three different experts, all of whom belong to the same controversial “Law and Economics” movement in the legal community.

A few lines above it was one of the weekend seminars, entitled “How Advertising Helps Protect Consumers.”

“Situations like this threaten to defeat the whole purpose of the gift ban,” Allison told The Huffington Post, noting that the academy’s corporate donations essentially function as tax-deductible support for advocacy work, while the university’s nonprofit status means that donor money can be spent entertaining lawmakers. “Even the smallest exceptions to the gift ban allow people to find some way to wine and dine members of Congress,” he said. [via Huff Post]

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