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Chart: High Rollers SACRAMENTO — What do Blue Cross of California, Oracle, Intel and the Southern California Chevrolet Dealers Association have in common? They’ve each contributed at least $100,000 to support a November ballot measure that would make it tougher for plaintiffs to win suits under �17200 of the California Business and Professions Code. So far, two committees, California Motor Car Dealers Association Fund to Stop Shakedown Lawsuits and Californians to Stop Shakedown Lawsuits, have jointly raised about $7.6 million — about half of what California Chamber of Commerce President Allan Zaremberg predicted in April would be needed to launch a successful tort reform campaign. A total of 404 auto dealers have contributed at least $5,000 apiece to the campaign. “We’ve mapped out a plan, and we’re prepared to spend whatever it takes,” said John Sullivan, president of the Civil Justice Association of California, the group spearheading the campaign. The initiative would limit the right to sue under 17200 to individuals who have actually been injured. Only the state attorney general or local public officials would be authorized to file suits on the public’s behalf seeking to enforce unfair business competition laws. The initiative requires any recovered penalties to be used only for enforcement of consumer protection laws. The initiative qualified for the November ballot in April, after efforts to seek a legislative compromise on 17200 broke down. At the time, supporters hailed the ballot measure as a victory for small business owners. But the big donations are coming from big companies. “We have said from the beginning that you can be a victim of misuse of this law whether you are large or small, whether you provide a service or make a product,” Sullivan said Wednesday. Many of the contributors have experienced 17200′s sting. Nike, for example, was sued under the law because of allegedly false statements it made in defending itself from claims that it used sweatshop labor. The case — which implicated commercial speech rights — split the state Supreme Court 4-3 and wound up at the U.S. Supreme Court. So far, official fund raising against the initiative has been modest. Jamie Court, chairman of ElectionWatchdog.org, a political action committee sponsored by the advocacy group Consumer Watchdog, said initiative opponents would campaign using a $150,000 grant from Consumer Watchdog’s parent affiliate, Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR). Court said there are no other plans to solicit campaign contributions. James Sturdevant, president of the Consumer Attorneys of California, said Wednesday that his group won’t be forming a campaign committee to join the fight, though individual plaintiff lawyers may spend against the measure. Instead, organized opposition will come from a coalition of 60 public interest groups — including the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), the Sierra Club and the Planning and Conservation League. Court predicted that the lineup of groups opposing the measure and voters’ natural propensity to vote “no” on ballot measures would be enough to defeat the initiative — unless the governor steps in. “The big wild card is Arnold,” said Court. Schwarzenegger hasn’t yet taken a stand on the measure, though he has called for an end to “shakedown lawsuits” and backed the California Chamber of Commerce on other business measures. But Schwarzenegger also touts his support of environmental protection — a position that opponents of the initiative plan to use against him if he jumps on the tort-reform wagon. Court and others suggest the governor may try to broker a legislative deal on 17200 and stay out of the initiative campaign altogether. “I’m all for a legislative solution — if it’s about transparency and it doesn’t take away standing,” said Court.

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