When the Republican ‘Tort Reform’ Crowd Uses Lawsuits as Political Stunts

First, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) announced that he’s planning to sue the federal government over its bulk collection of metadata. And now Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) announced in a Wall Street Journal op/ed that he’s planning to sue the government over what he calls “ObamaCare exemptions for Congress.”

Both lawmakers have attached their respective campaigns to their suits, which explains everything.

Rand Paul’s lawsuit page on his website includes the following:

“Your most generous contribution will help me circulate this petition to as many Americans as possible to gain the absolute maximum number of signers.”

And Johnson is paying for his lawsuit via his campaign committee.

Johnson’s colleague from the Wisconsin Republican delegation, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) called the lawsuit a “political stunt.”

But taking Paul and Johnson at face value, we can only respond with a loud and hearty, “WTF?!”

I’m old enough to remember a time when members of Congress would announce a policy position then, based on that position, author and introduce, you know, legislation. Instead, Paul and Johnson have decided to, in effect, use lawsuits as legislative tools. Not only that, but they’re also using lawsuits as a fundraising gimmick. And here I thought these guys were in favor of tort reform and against frivolous lawsuits.

As I’ve written before, there is no Affordable Care Act exemption for Congress. This is a trick that fools voters into believing that what’s actually a perfectly legal implementation rule is actually an illegal, across-the-board exemption. Once again, this so-called “exemption” (rule) authorizes the government to continue to pay most of the monthly insurance premium for congressional and White House workers who now must enroll in an ACA policy. Indeed, any employer whose employees have enrolled in an ACA policy can help pay employee premiums if they so choose.

But Ron Johnson doesn’t want his voters to know that. He also wants his middle-income staffers to pay the full premium cost for some reason. He’d better keep his office door locked, his computer passwords updated and generally make sure his nose clean, otherwise a disgruntled staffer enduring a considerable pay cut could make Johnson’s life very difficult.

The good news is that both suits will likely fail — which doesn’t matter to Johnson and Paul because the fundraising mission will have been accomplished.

Bob Cesca is the host of the Bob Cesca Show podcast, a twice weekly political talk show. He’s also a contributor to Salon.com. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.