House Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee released a trove of emails they’ve collected as part of their investigation into the White House’s deal with the pharmaceutical lobby during the 2009 push for ObamaCare.
We already know that drug companies agreed to provide $80 billion in savings in the law, in exchange for industry protections in the legislation. But the new emails provide more details on the deal, including an agreement by the drug companies to run a public relations campaign on behalf of the White House, with TV ads touting both the health care reform law and the politicians who supported it. Bloomberg reports:
“As part of our agreement, PhRMA needs to undertake a very significant public campaign in order to support policies of mutual interest to the industry and the administration,” according to a July 14, 2009, memo from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. “We have included a significant amount for advertising to express appreciation for lawmakers’ positions on health care reform issues.”
The goal, the memo said, was to “create momentum for consensus health care reform, help it pass, and then acknowledge those senators and representatives who were instrumental in making it happen and who must remain vigilant during implementation.”
The internal memos and e-mails for the first time unveil the industry’s plan to finance positive TV ads and supportive groups, along with providing $80 billion in discounts and taxes that were included in the law. The administration has previously denied the existence of a deal involving political support.
The political campaign aspect is the most troubling part of the deal, and it’s not likely to sit well with Obama’s base. According to the emails, the administration killed Democrat-supported provisions that would cut into drug company profits in order to secure the industry’s political and financial support. And that’s not the only part that will enrage the left. The emails show Obama completely flouted his 2008 promises to stand up against special interests and conduct negotiations transparently — mere months after he was elected. As Phil Klein writes:
Taken together, the emails paint a picture of insider deal making with a powerful special interest – something that stands in stark contrast to Obama’s campaign pledges.
In 2008, Obama ran an ad titled “Billy,” blasting then PhRMA president Billy Tauzin and the art of deal making in Washington. “I don’t want to learn how to play the game better, I want to put an end to the game playing,” Obama vowed.
Yet months into his presidency, Obama cut a deal with Tauzin’s lobbying group, and did so behind closed doors – a violation of his pledge to broadcast all health care negotiations on C-SPAN.
The presidency did not crush Obama’s idealism. He was never a reformer, not even at the beginning of his term. Just look at the defense today from Obama’s supporters in Congress:
“President Obama’s efforts to enlist the support of private industry are exactly what presidents have always done to enact major legislation,” U.S. Representatives Henry Waxman of California and Diana DeGette of Colorado said in a joint statement.
In other words, it’s not Obama’s fault that voters actually believed his principled campaign rhetoric. He was just doing “exactly what presidents have always done.”