by Irvin Muchnick and Tim Joyce
Concussion Inc. has learned that USA Swimming hired the Nielsen Merksamer Parrinello Gross & Leoni law firm — one of the most powerful lobbyists in California — to fight state legislation that would eliminate the statute of limitations on lawsuits by victims of sexual abuse.
State filings confirm that the Colorado Springs-based swim branch of the U.S. Olympic Committee engaged Nielsen Merksamer in opposition to SB 131, which is being co-authored by State Senators Jim Beall and Ricardo Lara and Assemblymember Nancy Skinner.
USA Swimming thus joins the Catholic Church as the only institutions working against the passage of this bill.
(Nielsen Merksamer’s James C. Gross and Gene Erbin have not responded to our emailed queries. USA Swimming long ago stopped communicating with Concussion Inc.)
It is not surprising that our national swimming governing body, which oversees 300,000 club swimmers and 12,000 coaches, now has the same legislative profile as that of the church. In terms of both scale and proportion, these entities are by far the most deeply implicated in the issue of sexual molestation by authority figures of underage victims, and cover-up of same.
Steven Merksamer, the firm’s senior partner, has long-running ties to the Republican party. From 1982 to 1987, he was chief of staff for Governor George Deukmajian. Other firm corporate clients include AETNA, Apple, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, and Merck. In 2011, while representing Bank of America, Nielsen Merksamer helped kill SB 729 – a bill that would have added transparency and accountability to the mortgage market by requiring banks to “give people a definitive answer on loan modification, identify who owns the loan, and give borrowers legal recourse if banks don’t take these steps.”