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December 6, 2010 at 12:08 PM

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Lawyer Bill Marler blasts Democrats over food-safety legislation

Posted by Maureen O'Hagan

Is it a threat?

Sure sounds like one.

Seattle lawyer Bill Marler, a huge­ Democratic supporter, said he's had it with them. After years of wrangling­ (not to mention foot-dragging), the U.S. Senate last week passed legislation designed to strengthen the food-safety system­ - only to have it declared pretty much dead-on-arrival. (The House passed its version of the legislation in July 2009.)

The problem? A provision in S.510 requires companies to pay a fee when they have a food recall, among other things. Those few lines appear to have violated the Constitution because provisions raising revenues "shall originate in the House."

"This is the stupidest thing," said Marler, who specializes in food-borne illness cases. "It doesn’t make me want to dig into my pocket to help the Democrats. It's not like I expect a return on my investment, but I expect the people I'm supporting to at least do their jobs."

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Marler and his wife have contributed nearly $166,000 to federal/national candidates and party committees since 1998. He said he's helped raised millions more for Democrats and Democratic causes.

He's been pushing for improvements to the food safety system for years. And he's a guy who's knows where loopholes in the current system are. He's represented hundreds of people who became deathly ill from food borne illness. Remember those kids who got sick and died from Jack in the Box hamburgers in 1993? He filed lawsuits for them. He's been involved in pretty much every major food-borne illness outbreak since.

Marler's been lobbying for this Senate bill, and its House counterpart, for nearly two years. He sent t-shirts to every senator urging them to pass food-safety legislation with his face on them and the slogan: "Put a trial lawyer out of business." He's flown in clients to testify before Congress. He's testified himself.

"And they screw it up in one sentence," he said. "From my perspective, the whole thing was handled badly."

It's unclear at this point whether there is the time - or inclination - to fix the bill so it can go to the president's desk.

"If at this point the president and Democratic House and Senate leaders can not get these bills across the finish line," Marler wrote on his blog. "Disappointment is far too mild a feeling."

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