An Endowed Chair

Sen. John McCain's push for campaign-finance reform has helped his presidential bid. Donations from special interests haven't hurt, either.

Most experts agree that the Y2K scare is just that -- a scare. But high-tech special interests took no chances. They asked the Senate Commerce Committee and John McCain to protect them from liability in the event of product failure. The Y2K Dispute Resolution Bill addresses almost any catastrophe related to a Y2K computer crash.

Tom Bantle of CongressWatch, a Ralph Nader creation, calls the bill anti-consumer and says it benefits hardware and software manufacturers.

"It's particularly unusual," Bantle says of the bill, "because the Y2K defect was created by the computer companies -- in order to save themselves computer space and therefore money -- knowing that in the year 2000 it would be a problem. And while they've created it themselves, they came to Congress to say, 'Well, we created it, but you should now protect us from our own decision to put this defect into our products by making it harder for people who are hurt by it to get compensation.'"

Joe Forkan



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Even though Y2K will likely be a "non-event," Bantle worries that the industry will use the legislative victory as a steppingstone toward additional liability exemptions. Already, he says, the computer industry is citing the bill "as an example of the types of things that we should do more often, so in that sense it's a very bad precedent."

Commerce Committee staff director Buse dismisses Bantle's concerns as more grousing from Nader, whose groups he says parrot trial lawyers who don't want to limit lawsuits.

Of the bill, Buse says, "It does not benefit any single industry of any kind. What it does benefit is society as a whole. I don't think that we'd want a bunch of frivolous lawsuits out there."

Companies and trade associations that supported the bill include: Intel ($5,100); IBM ($6,350); and Microsoft ($32,250).

Editor's note: In preparing this story, we reviewed John McCain's campaign-finance reports for his 1998 Senate campaign and his 2000 presidential campaign through the latest Federal Election Commission filing deadline (Oct. 15, 1999). This included all PAC receipts and 14,318 individual contributions. Because of an electronic omission by the Federal Election Commission, at least $2,512,052 of McCain's total receipts of $11,616,136 were not examined, so actual contributions from a special interest's employees could be higher than reported here. Information for individual contributions and PACs was provided by Public Disclosure Inc.'s FECInfo. In cases where multiple family members are identified, the income-earner's employer is listed for all family members.

Maidi Terry assisted with computer analysis.

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