IT WAS OPERATION FIZZLE. A coalition of attorneys spent an estimated $1.5 million on an 11th hour advertising blitz to stop Senate passage of
a bill aimed at curbing frivolous shareholder lawsuits. The lawyers targeted 20 states with wavering senators who had received ample attorney campaign manna in the past. In the 10 days before the June 28 vote, TV ads warned that scammed investors would be stripped of redress, even picturing savings and loan scandal figure Charles Keating.
The lawyers couldn't even hold on to such longtime liberal Democratic allies as Ted Kennedy and John Kerry of Massachusetts, Tom Harkin of Iowa, or Barbara Mikulski of Maryland. The Senate voted by a veto-proof 70-29
in favor of the reforms. Mikulski says that concerns over shareholder lawsuits against high-technology companies were a compelling factor in her vote for the measure.
Corporate America spent freely, too. The business coalition supporting the bill says it spent $1.7 million on print and broadcast ads in the final week before the vote.
The worst ignominy for the plaintiff lawyers: Some television stations were still airing their prescheduled commercials after the Senate vote.