Industry Spins the Revolving Door: Ben Quayle to Lobby on Asbestos Bill He Authored

hanshake in washington dc with...
hanshake in washington dc with...

Ben Quayle, who during his one House term authored legislation to delay or deny compensation to sick and dying asbestos victims, has been hired to lobby for -- you guessed it -- legislation to delay or deny compensation to sick and dying asbestos victims.

The son of former Vice President Dan Quayle is now a registered lobbyist for the Institute for Legal Reform, the advocacy arm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a leading force behind the so-called FACT Act (H.R. 526). The legislation, now sponsored by Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, would set up a series of unnecessary and invasive barriers for Americans seeking compensation for diseases caused by exposure to asbestos.

The Chamber is throwing the kitchen sink into trying to muscle this bad bill into law, and now they're adding to their lineup of lobbyists the congressman asbestos interests first recruited for their scheme to skirt justice for victims.

The Institute for Legal Reform has made passing the FACT Act one of its two top legislative priorities. Federal lobbying records show that since 2011 the Institute and the Chamber have spent an undisclosed amount -- estimated by EWG Action Fund to be millions of dollars -- lobbying for the bill.

Quayle, who represented Arizona's Third District in 2011 and 2012, was the author of the original version of the legislation, which passed the Judiciary Committee in 2012 but did not get a floor vote. Besides the Chamber, the current bill is backed by corporations with billions of dollars worth of liability for deaths and diseases caused by exposing workers, their families or consumers to asbestos, including Koch Industries and Honeywell International.

The legislation would deplete the already dwindling assets of trust funds set aside to compensate victims of asbestos disease. It would also require public disclosure of victims' personal information such as medical records and partial Social Security numbers, placing these veterans and others at heightened risk of identity theft and cyber crimes.

Opposition to the bill has grown in recent weeks. Several of the nation's leading veterans groups, the primary association representing firefighters and first responders, and unions for both teachers and construction and trade workers have now come out against the bill.

Veterans, firefighters, teachers and constructions workers are among the communities who bear an outsize burden of asbestos-triggered diseases. Research by the federal National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health shows both firefighters and teachers are twice as likely to die from mesothelioma -- an incurable cancer caused only by asbestos exposure -- as the general population. Veterans, who make up only about eight percent of Americans, account for roughly 30 percent of all mesothelioma victims, who usually die within months of diagnosis.

I'm sure Ben Quayle would deny that he has anything against veterans, firefighters and teachers. But those are the kind of people -- stricken by asbestos diseases through no fault of their own -- that this legislation will hurt. He wasn't able to get the job done while he was in Congress, so he's moved his base of attack to K Street.

The House could vote on the measure within days, forcing the Senate to take up the anti-victims bill.

Lobbying or voting for legislation that could very well put many of our nation's veterans, first responders, teachers and other hardworking Americans at risk of cyber crimes and other injustices would likely be hard to stomach for most of us. I know it would for me.