USA Swimming Hires Lobbying Firm to Oppose California Billl SB 131

Nancy Peverini, the Legislative Director of Consumer Advocates of California, has confirmed that USA Swimming has retained the lobbying firm of Nielsen Merksamer to oppose the passage of California state bill 131.

This bill would eliminate the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits seeking monetary damages that haven’t been decided to finality as of January 1, 2014. For example, if abuse occurred in 1995, and the statute of limitations on the abuse case expired in 2005, under this law the victim could bring a damages case at any point.

According to our legal correspondent Ceci Christy, the basis for the new law is that the majority of victims don’t come forward until much later in life for a variety of reasons: trauma, humiliation, etc. The drafters of the bill question why victims should be punished monetarily for the consequences of the abuse by not allowing them the option of pursuing damages if they choose to after coming forward later in life.

USA Swimming released a statement in response to the news on the matter Friday evening that read:

“When USA Swimming created its Safe Sport program, our 100% commitment was to prevent abuse and keep athletes safe. We remain committed to that charge and abhor any abuse that happens to anyone. We have many components of this program, including background screens, educational programs, an updated Code of Conduct and Safe Sport leadership conference.

“With that said, we have concerns with California SB 131 and USA Swimming, on behalf of our current and future members, has engaged Nielsen Merksamer to work with us on opposing this bill in its current form. For example, this bill does not hold the abusers accountable and excludes governmental agencies even when they are the employer.”

The bill, drafted by State Senator Jim Beall, passed the California senate on May 29th, 2013. The California State Assembly will vote on the bill later this summer.

Supporters of the bill, including the National Center for Victims of Crime, say that the bill will “protect children and hold abusers and those who harbor them accountable.”

USA Swimming and the Catholic Bishops of California have both opposed this legislation. The Catholic Bishops of California said in a statement (which can be read in full here) that “If enacted, this bill offers no further protections to children nor does it increase criminal penalties for abusers.  What it does do is expose the Church and other not-for-profit organization to unlimited liability.”

Other criticisms of the bill includes that it specifically protects public schools and other government-funded organizations from liability, but not non-profits.

The specific names assigned to lobby on USA Swimming’s behalf are Jim Gross and Gene Urbin.

The bill can be read in full, including all revisions here.

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Steve Nolan
8 years ago

The Catholic Church and USA Swimming are both lining up against this? I should probably support it then, I suppose.

And USA Swimming hiring lobbyists? That makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Steve Nolan
8 years ago

Yuuuuuup, it’s because they could lose an absolute buttload of money on these cases.

From the church’s statement:

This legislation seeks to amend the current California statute of limitations as it relates to the filing of civil lawsuits concerning the abuse of minors by again opening another one-year window for those alleging long past abuse to sue the Church and other non-profit services organizations. Regrettably, after its passage in the Senate, this legislation is one step closer to being enacted and will be voted on by California State Assembly this summer.

If enacted, this bill offers no further protections to children nor does it increase criminal penalties for abusers. What it does do is expose the Church and… Read more »

8 years ago

Is this the same bill that includes a statute of limitaions on only public bodies eg the whole California education system?

There have been many recent cases especially of Californian women teachers in sexual offenses with their minor male students. Is there a new song -California Boys?

The state here is protecting itself disproportionally because it can.

concerned coach
8 years ago

Wow…usa swimming and a lobby firm…a match made in heaven?

concerned coach
8 years ago

not saying that what usa swimming isn’t fighting for what is right…but using a lobbying firm? I mean…you are usa swimming…use your olympic nobility and fight for what is right the honorable way

Reply to  concerned coach
8 years ago

Maybe… but it feels a bit like the “A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client” approach. If you want to meaningfully influence something, hire a professional.

8 years ago

Absolutely inappropriate action by USA Swimming. Shocking that they are spending member’s fees on an attempt to limit their fiscal responsibility for possible atrocities potentially committed by their own staff. These abuses have happened in swimming and the organization needs to spend resources to punish those responsible rather than limit their exposure. Disgusting move.

8 years ago

Like the Catholic Church, USA Swimming now stands in defense of child abusers, and opposed to their victims. Shame on them.

C Martin
8 years ago

A crime is a crime is a crime. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to come forward (though in my eyes if it really was that important you would come forward sooner than later), it was still an act of abuse. It doesn’t matter who, what, where, WHEN, why, or how, just that it happened. Abusers cannot be protected.

Reply to  C Martin
8 years ago

Easier said than done!

Time to Kill
8 years ago

USA Swimming proposal for the next 10 years is raise the registration fee by $2.00 each year.

Really already pay our executive director an outrageous salary, along with his upper management staff. I really don’t blame them for their salaries, I hold the USA Swimming accountable for these outrageous salaries.

Now USA Swimming BOD has hired a lobby group to represent the membership on this matter….did I miss something, was our membership survey on the usage of these dollars for this purpose.

I strongly recommend that our LSC delegates attending the convention to vote against any increase in fees. It is obvious that our leadership at the BOD level is not in touch with general membership.

Let’s get… Read more »

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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