An environmental advocacy group has recently begun a much-needed counterattack in response to a proposed bill called the “FACT Act” that would make it more difficult for asbestos-exposure victims to receive justice and compensation.
The Environmental Working Group Action Fund (EWGAF) is an organization with the goal of raising national awareness about the dangers and prevalence of asbestos. On their website asbestosnation.org, the group says it goal is to:
“Advocate reform of the broken federal toxics laws to protect people from dangers such as asbestos. It defends Americans’ right to know where they might be exposed to toxic substances so that they can take steps to guard themselves and their families.”
The Response to the Republican Initiative
EWG Action Fund recently developed an entire website that targets Republicans, CEOs, and lobbyists involved in furthering the special interests of the asbestos industry at the expense of the public. The website, creatively titled Badfellas, is a parody of the popular 1990 Warner Bros. mafia film Goodfellas. Showcased prominently on the site is a mock movie poster featuring the smiling faces of Charles and David Koch, CEO and Executive VP of Koch Industries (respectively); Tom Donahue, CEO of the US Chamber of Commerce; and Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX), “asbestos industry puppet” and author of H.R. 526 A.K.A. the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act of 2015.
The mock poster’s tagline is a 1966 quote from an asbestos industry executive: “If you have enjoyed a good life while working with asbestos… [then] why not die from it.”
The FACT Act and Its Dangerous Consequences
The main target of the EWG’s new website is the FACT Act itself. This bill was supposedly designed to reduce fraudulent asbestos-related litigation. Despite a complete lack of proof that such fraud exists, Representative Farenthold claims that the bill would be used to:
“Strengthen the Asbestos Trust System by promoting transparency to combat the fraud and abuse that currently plague the system…The FACT Act will discourage this kind of abuse by shining light on the trust system, as sunlight is often the best disinfectant.”
The bill would require asbestos trusts to publish quarterly reports detailing information on the asbestos victims who request payment as well as the reasoning behind the payments that are made. Under the bill, any asbestos victim seeking compensation would have to publicly disclose sensitive personal information on the Internet, including their name, employment history, and the last 4 digits of their social security number.
This would leave asbestos victims at risk of identity theft and cybercrime. Asbestos victims who did not want to expose themselves to identity theft would have to give up receiving compensation for their asbestos-related injuries, such as mesothelioma and asbestosis.
Furthermore, EWG Action Fund believes the FACT Act would just create legislative roadblocks that would get in the way of asbestos victims – many of whom are sick, dying, and in desperate need of medical treatment – from receiving the compensation they deserve and require.
A Corrupt Alliance of Industry and Politics
EWG Action Fund’s Badfellas website shows how the Republican politicians supporting the FACT Act are doing so at the behest of the asbestos industry and lobbyists. Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), a “guest-star” on the Badfellas website, is said to have received $300,000 in campaign contributions from asbestos interests since 2010. Goodlatte identified the FACT Act as a priority for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary. Farenthold has received over $200,000 in campaign contributions from companies with known asbestos liability as well as companies known to be lobbying the FACT Act, such as Koch Industries and Honeywell International.
The website also claims that the Koch brothers funded “bogus” scientific studies that concluded asbestos didn’t cause cancer. Furthermore, the Kochs have given hundreds of thousands of dollars to the members of the House Judiciary Committee who will vote on the FACT Act.
The EWG Action Fund says that asbestos-related illnesses result in 12,000 to 15,000 American deaths a year. The organization would like to make sure that victims and their families receive their due compensation, despite the efforts of policy makers, lobbyists, and billionaire asbestos-industry CEOs. The recent Badfellas website is a warranted counterstrike against a powerful alliance that would prioritize industry profits over public health and wellbeing.