Friday, February 11, 2011

Breaking News: New Jersey Congressman Leonard Lance Caught Lying About Taking Government-Subsidized Healthcare


If you've been following our Healthcare Hypocrites Campaign, you know that one of the Republican hypocrites we highlighted with our ads is New Jersey career politician Leonard Lance. The ad started running Wednesday on a local station, 1450 WCTC in Somerset, and after just 11 plays, Lance had staffers on the phone with the general manager to demand that the station stop airing the ads. Now, the station is owned by Greater Media New Jersey and they have a lot of stations (WMGQ, WDHA, WMTR, WRAT, WJRZ and WWTR) and aren't looking for a fight with a truculent New Jersey congressman with a reputation for bullying tactics. Lance's staffer claimed the ad was false and sent along a copy of the Health Benefits Election Form which shows Lance checked the “I do not want” box, dated in early 2009.

Something was fishy. How did he know in early 2009 before the bill was passed to turn down the government option? Did he also turn down his congressional pension and other perks? Like I said, he's a career politician-- not a clairvoyant-- and something wasn't adding up. We started asking around among other New Jersey legislators and civil servants and, sure enough, we found out that the taxpayer-funded health care that New Jersey offers-- and that Lance still uses-- is much plusher and costs the taxpayers much more than the congressional option. So not only is Leonard Lance a hypocrite, who voted both to repeal healthcare for his hardpressed, taxpaying constituents and voted against an amendment that would have allowed for transparency about who in Congress gets government-subsidized healthcare and who doesn't-- but he went the extra mile to attempt to bully the station and Blue America and to mislead New Jersey voters by covering up that he uses government-subsidized healthcare for himself. This guy is even sleazier than we thought.

Reporter Jane Roh did some great investigative journalism for the Courier Post.
New Jersey Congressman Leonard Lance successfully challenged the accuracy of a radio ad attacking him this week and got it pulled off the air.

But in doing so, the 7th district Republican may have created more problems for himself.

"I should've kept my mouth shut," Chief of Staff Todd Mitchell told the Courier-Post Friday.

The progressive group Blue America PAC Wednesday released basically identical ads hitting four House Republicans on their votes against health care reform. The ads implied the Republicans-- Reps. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Charlie Bass, R-N.H., Sandy Adams, R-Fla., and Lance-- enjoy taxpayer-funded health insurance.

"They voted to make it tougher for you to get affordable health care," the announcer said.

"But don't worry, Congressman Lance is all set ... since his vote didn't apply to the health plan he gets as a member of Congress.

But the second-term congressman never enrolled in the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program. Mitchell contacted Somerset-based WCTC 1450-AM, which yanked the ad Thursday, according to a station e-mail obtained by the Courier-Post.

Blue America PAC paid $3,000 for the initial 10-day buy.

Lance opposes the health care reform package on cost concerns - he's a deficit hawk - and on small-government principles. But it turns out he receives medical care for practically nothing, thanks to the taxpayers of New Jersey.

Lance receives family health coverage that is free except for co-pays, the state Department of Treasury confirmed Friday. The former state senator, assemblyman and Kean administration official qualified for retirement in 2006, his 25th year of service. He retired in January 2009, when he moved on to Washington, and enrolled in the state's free health plan for retirees.

The family plan Lance is enrolled in is the most expensive of the 10 options available. His coverage costs $1,906.42 per month, or $22,877.04 per year.

Mitchell said Lance's health coverage was a private matter and not relevant to the pulled ad.

"The issue is a partisan group ran an ad against Leonard that was factually incorrect, so much so that the radio station is pulling the ad," he argued.

"These groups have to be accountable. We can disagree on the issues but you can't just make stuff up."

Blue America spokesman Howie Klein admitted the ad could have been more thoroughly researched, but he said the spirit of what was said was accurate.

"We don't feel we got the ad wrong," Klein said. "It's a matter of interpretation. The ad we ran originally probably should have been worded better."

The group is now cutting a second ad that will accuse Lance of being a hypocrite on health insurance.

New Jersey's health insurance coverage for public employees is significantly more generous than plans available to federal workers. Gov. Chris Christie is pushing for reforms to bring the state's pensions and benefits structure more in line with that offered to him when he was a U.S. attorney.

"As an employee of the federal government … I had to pay for 34 percent of the cost of my premium. So I paid for a little more than a third and the taxpayers paid for two-thirds," Christie recounted at a Jan. 24 town hall in Chesilhurst.

By contrast, most New Jersey employees pay just 1.5 percent of their salary toward one of three plans. According to the state, 96 percent of public workers choose the most generous plan.

Christie has said the program "makes our pension system look robust."

The administration estimates unfunded liability for the state health insurance program is $66.8 billion. The state picks up 92 percent of the tab currently; Christie's goal is to move to a premium, cost-sharing, 70/30 split model by 2014.

We'd like to run a revamped version of the ad on even more stations. Can you help us with a $10 or $20 contribution here

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