WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - Seeking "help" for his U.S. Senate bid, Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, told a group of trial lawyers at a Texas fundraiser in January he's "someone who's been fighting tort reform for 30 years" and needs their "help" to stop a "farmer" from becoming the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Apparently, trial lawyers got the message, as Braley has received more than $1.1 million in campaign donations from lawyers and law firms, according to opensecrets.org.
Creating an Internet feeding frenzy, American Rising PAC on Tuesday (National Agriculture Day) began circulating a video of the congressman saying that if a Republican wins Iowa's senate race, the next chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee could be Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley - an Iowa farmer prior to launching his extensive career in Congress.
"A farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee because if Democrats lose the majority, Chuck Grassley will be the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee," Braley said in the video.
Braley, a plaintiff's lawyer by trade and former head of the Iowa Trial Lawyers Association, is the only Democrat running for Iowa's open U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Sen. Tom Harkin.
"If you help me win this race, you may have someone with your background, your experience, your voice - someone who's been literally fighting tort reform for 30 years in a visible and public way - on the Senate Judiciary Committee," Braley said.
In response, a Grassley spokesperson issued a written statement.
"By the logic expressed on this recording a trial lawyer shouldn't be involved in policy making about agriculture, or energy, or health care."
Braley has since released a statement of his own apologizing to Grassley and anyone else he "may have offended."
The following day after the apology, on March 26, the congressman sent out a press release highlighting his efforts to fight and deliver for Iowa farmers.
However, in case Braley's comments alienated famers, and perhaps even some more cautious lawyers, there is another group he can count on for political support.
In the months of January and February, the Senate Majority PAC -- created to protect and expand the majority in the Senate -- spent a total of $316,115 buying media ads in support of the senate candidate, according to the Federal Ethics Commission.
Campaign finance records further show some of the top donors to Braley's campaign are law firms, including the Dallas law firm Waters & Kraus with a donation of $19,350.
Weitz & Luxenberg, a law firm specializing in asbestos litigation, made a $24,125 donation to Braley's campaign.
Before being elected to Congress in 2007, Braley "worked as an attorney for 23 years, holding corporations accountable to their employees and consumers," according to the congressman's online bio.
Marilyn Tennissen, editor for the Southeast Texas Record, contributed to this Story.
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