Ivan Holmes, chairman of the Oklahoma Democratic Party, said he
gets it. He knows what the tort reform fight is really about, and he
is ready to do battle with the Republican Party, Holmes told
But state Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma
City, said Holmes is mistaken if he thinks the people of Oklahoma
will side with the Democrats on this issue.
"The Republicans have done good in framing this issue," Holmes
said. "We've let them frame this for us, and they've gotten away
with it in the past. We're not going to let them get away with it
Holmes and the state Democratic Party are gearing up for a grass-
roots, door-to-door battle over tort reform this year. Once the
people of Oklahoma are educated regarding what tort reform really
is, voters will reject the measures Republicans want to send to a
vote this year, Holmes said.
Most Oklahomans have heard anecdotal stories about lawsuits that
seem to be filed based on silly or flimsy claims, and about lawyers
who have pocketed millions of dollars won by taking big businesses
to court. But they haven't heard as much about the role insurance
companies are playing in the battle for tort reform - or as Holmes
has decided to call it, "corporate immunity."
"The Consumer Federation of America released a study on the
profitability of the insurance industry that showed a profit of $157
billion over three years," Holmes said. State Farm Insurance Co. and
Allstate Insurance have written letters to state regulators in
Kansas and Seattle, respectively, claiming tort reform does not
measurably improve their book of business, Holmes said.
Rather than being about improving insurance rates, as Republicans
claim, Holmes said tort reform is really a battle between
Republicans and Democrats for political dominance.
"This breaks down to the Republicans trying to destroy the
effectiveness of lawyers in Oklahoma," Holmes said. "It's no secret
lawyers have been good to the Democratic Party, they're our biggest
The Republicans' strategy has worked in the past, Holmes said.
Republicans passed a right-to-work law in 2001, weakening the power
of another key Democrat constituency - labor unions. Hobbled by the
law, unions had less money to spend on Democrat campaigns. In 2004,
Republicans took control of the state House of Representatives for
the first time in state history; in 2008, Republicans also took
control of the state Senate. Holmes said in some races, Republican
candidates outspent Democrat candidates 10-to-1.
"The public has sided with us time and time again on this issue,"
said Coffee on Wednesday. "We will win this battle. …