We’ve long known that the Obama administration strongly courted certain industries — pharmaceutical and insurance companies in particular — to back, or at least not strongly oppose, the health care reform bill. But now it looks like they even coordinated advertising campaigns with the pharma industry:
Republicans in the House of Representatives have uncovered a trove of emails and other memos showing how the Obama administration coordinated its $150 million advertising campaign with major pharmaceutical companies.
Nearly $70 million was spent through two Super PACs — political action committees — organized in part by White House officials, including Jim Messina, Obama’s former deputy chief of staff who is now managing his 2012 reelection campaign.
Memos released Friday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee revealed the close links between the Obama administration and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, also known as PhRMA…
Democratic consultants working with the White House on health reform asked to meet backers of the law “to discuss our ad campaign,” Ron Pollack, executive director of the Families USA consumer group, said in a June 2009 e-mail to PhRMA.
“As I mentioned previously, I wanted to get some guidance from the White House about their messaging and how our effort can be consistent with that,” Pollack wrote.
The email was among materials compiled by the House Energy and Commerce Committee as part of a probe to determine how the White House interacted with the drug industry as the health reform legislation took shape.
This is pretty much all hypocrisy from the Republicans (after all, they didn’t probe the even deeper policy relationships with the Bush administration in pushing the Medicare Part D legislation), but what is important is how it highlights the influence of money in politics. Obama had little choice but to work with the industries that stood to win or lose as a result of the bill in order to get it passed. And we’ve known about the tradeoffs they made from the very beginning.
The tradeoff was that the White House agreed to fight against any legislation that would allow the federal government to negotiate a better deal on drug prices through Medicare. The government is currently forbidden from engaging in such negotiations, which was part of Bush’s Medicare Part D bill. In exchange for that payoff, the pharma industry helped advocate for both bills under both presidents. The tradeoff with the insurance industry was to agree to bury the public option and single payer and make the centerpiece of the bill government subsidies to buy private insurance.
These kinds of tradeoffs are absolutely routine because they are demanded by the way the political system works today. The influence of vast amounts of corporate money is so enormous when it comes to any bill that will seriously affect their profits that such payoffs must be made in order to keep those companies from spending billions of dollars to kill the bill in Congress. And that’s the real problem here. There is no room for doing the right thing, only for doing the most expedient thing, even if it results in very bad public policy.