The Legacy of Billy Tauzin: The White House-PhRMA Deal

(This was cross posted from the Sunlight Foundation)

More than a million spectators gathered before the Capitol on a frosty January afternoon to witness the inauguration of Barack Obama, who promised in his campaign to change Washington’s mercenary culture of lobbyists, special interest influence and backroom deals. But within a few months of being sworn in, the President and his top aides were sitting down with leaders from the pharmaceutical industry to hash out a deal that they thought would make health care reform possible.

Over the following months, pharmaceutical industry lobbyists and executives met with top White House aides dozens of times to hammer out a deal that would secure industry support for the administration's health care reform agenda in exchange for the White House abandoning key elements of the president's promises to reform the pharmaceutical industry. They flooded Congress with campaign contributions, and hired dozens of former Capitol Hill insiders to push their case. How they did it—pieced together from news accounts, disclosure forms including lobbying reports and Federal Election Commission records, White House visitor logs and the schedule Sen. Max Baucus releases voluntarily—is a testament to how ingrained the grip of special interests remains in Washington.

In the 2008 campaign, Obama declared his intention to include all stakeholders as he sought to reform the nation's health care system, but also supported key Democratic health reform policies. Among these were several that targeted the pharmaceutical industry: Allowing re-importation of drugs from first world countries with lower drug prices and providing Medicare with negotiating authority over prescription drug prices in the recently enacted Part D program. These weren't just promises, Obama had already voted for both of them as a senator in 2007. (Roll Call Vote 132 and Roll Call Vote 150.)

Set to carry out this agenda were two Capitol Hill veterans, schooled in the monied Washington culture, chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and deputy chief of staff Jim Messina. Emanuel was a former fundraiser, Clinton administration official, investment banker and member of the Democratic leadership in Congress. Messina was the former campaign manager and chief of staff to the powerful Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus. Both were known for their unparalleled legislative abilities.

The Truth Behind the Proposed DTV Conversion Delay

Today's article by Nate Silver reminded me of this little bit of old news.  In his article Silver complains that the Republicans are simply being "uncooperative", most recently with their unanimous opposition to the porkulus bill, but, as he cites, also with their opposition to the DTV transition delay. 

But, in terms of the DTV transition, the House Republicans were more than merely "uncooperative" - they were absolutely right.  The purported rationale for the delay was that the $40 coupon program has run out of money, people are being put on a waiting list, and it will take time for everyone to get their converter boxes.

Here's closer to the real reason: The Obama advisor for telecom policy, R. Gerard Salemme, just also happens to be an Executive Vice-President for Clearwire.  Clearwire has a cooperative agreement with Sprint to build a 4G wireless internet network.  When it comes online, it would be the fastest wireless internet network in the country.  Naturally other wireless companies are working on their own 4G networks too.  Clearwire's major competitor in this capacity is Verizon.  Verizon is also planning a 4G network, and they are planning on using the soon-to-be-vacated analog TV spectrum in which to operate their network.  So, a delay in the DTV transition only helps Sprint/Clearwire and hurts Verizon.

So, is Clearwire, via Salemme, manipulating government to obtain a competitive advantage over Verizon?  No!  It can't be!  Only evil Rethuglicans do that!




We at "Let's Get This Right" http://www.letsgetthisright.com recognize
that the current economic situation is a bipartisan issue and requires
serious attention.

As President Ronald Reagan once said "You and I are told we must
choose between a left, or right, but I suggest there is no such thing
as a left or right. There is only an up or down."

We at "Let's Get this Right" agree with that statement and we
recognize that the US economy is in enormous trouble. This includes
Wall Street, the US Government, and every American living on
main-street; no one is immune to the impact of the current economic

When Wall Street needs help it turns to the government, when the
government needs help it turns to the American people and when the
American people need help, it is often too late for us to obtain help
because the government has already over spent the tax dollars, fees
and fines it collects as part of its daily function.

When it needs money for a spending bill, or a financial bailout, the
government either cuts spending somewhere, shifts spending
temporarily, raises taxes on the American people or simply prints more

Sadly, when it prints more money much of it is backed by foreign
governments and investors from countries such as Saudi Arabia, China
and others which do not share our interests, our constitutional
heritage, or our core values.

Regardless, we the people cannot afford to continue to allow the
current reckless spending practices used in Washington, nor should we
allow our country to be in debt or beholding to other nations.
Especially when the average American?s yearly income is on the decline
from which we must all pay for our taxes, insurance, gas,
transportation, groceries, housing, clothing, etc.

So "Let's Get This Right!"
We the undersigned DEMAND that members of the US House of Representatives, the US Senate and the US President immediately pledge to commit to the following; - STOP Any and all deficit spending that is unrelated national defense until the US budget is balanced. - START investigating the roll that corporate executives, lobbyists and politicians played in the current economic downfall to include the use of subpoena power, and criminal prosecution where necessary. - CONTINUE to follow these steps until anyone directly connected with the current economic downfall is no longer in a position to do so again; especially those who directly benefited from quid pro quo activity, including political advocacy, legislative action, or "sweetheart deals" such as low interest loans and campaign donations. It is time to get back to basics. We the people could not operate our personal budgets the way that corporations or the federal government have without ending up out of work and in jail. We the people are not above the law and those in positions of power should not be either. "Let's Get This Right" http://www.letsgetthisright.com


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"Plastic my son, Plastic" (or Barack Obama & the Biden/MBNA family)

I guess I have to take a break from following my own senior senator Chris Dodd (D-Countrywide) since he skeddalled off to Ireland and may have slipped back into the country while eluding the press.

Now I have another ethically challenged Senator out there, and I can share my knowledge of the financial services field to explain this latest faux pas.

The line in the title is from The Graduate, but plastic in the form of credit cards has made many young men in Delaware (a hotbed of finance) very rich. One, of whom, was Senator Joe Biden's son. 

 A son of Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden was paid an undisclosed amount of money as a consultant by MBNA, the largest employer in Delaware, during the years the senator supported legislation that was promoted by the credit card industry and opposed by consumer groups.

David Wade, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, said that "after working in the Clinton administration in the Department of Commerce on Internet privacy and online commerce issues, Hunter consulted for five years as an expert on these very same issues at a time of enormous expansion in online banking."

At the time Hunter Biden was receiving consulting payments from MBNA, he also was a Washington lobbyist at a firm he had co-founded.

"He was not a lobbyist for MBNA, and his work had absolutely nothing to do with the bankruptcy bill. Zero. Nothing," said Wade. 


Lobbyists and Democrats

The Left (especially, though not exclusively) has turned the demonization of lobbyists into a very effective populist tactic for waging proxy wars against more fundamental disagreements.  That's an unfair demonization of much of what lobbyists do.   The problem is not the lobbying - which, remember, is a Constitutional Right, protected by the First Amendment - but the ability of government to bestow benefits, entitlements and favors.  That's a problem with government, not with the people who talk to it.   

Nevertheless, the proxy war against lobbying has been effective against Republicans, in particular.  So, while Democrats feign outrage for the cameras, this New York Times story makes some important points.  Highlights...

  • "All told, 50 lobbyists reported contributions totaling more than $25,000 each in the first six months of the year. Nearly half, 24 of the 50, made more than 80 percent of their contributions to Democrats, while 16 gave more than 80 percent to Republicans."
  • "About $1 million of the top lobbyists’ contributions, or 57 percent, went to Democrats, while $715,000, or 40 percent, went to Republicans."
  • "Fourteen of the top 50 lobbyists made all their contributions to Democrats, while only four gave all their contributions to Republicans."
  • "...Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, received nearly $50,000 from lobbyists, even though he says he does not want their money."

All worth bearing in mind when Democrats tell us about the new kind of politics.

Obama's PACs and Lobbyists Canard

In his self-serving, disingenuous video opting out of the public financing system today, Obama claimed that his decision to run the first corporate-funded general election campaign since Richard Nixon and CREEP represented "true" public financing and that it was necessary to fight back against a McCain campaign funded by PACs and lobbyists.

Obama has long raised the PACs and lobbyists canard to squeeze more money out of the pocketbooks of his small donors, even though he dramatically outraised and outspent Hillary Clinton in the primary campaign. Obama's campaign doesn't take lobbyist or PAC money, and since Obama became the nominee, neither will the DNC.

But just how big a factor are PACs and lobbyists in Presidential election fundraising?

Not much. Read on.

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