Friday, March 29, 2019

Republicans Aren't The Only Bad Guys-- This Week's Swampiest Crooks: Andy Cuomo, Cheri Bustos, Joe Crowley


Last week, we looked at a video message from Abigail Disney from the Patriotic Millionaires, talking about-- though not by name-- some extremely bad Democrats in New York: Governor Cuomo and Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, of course + The Long Island 6: legislators Todd Kaminsky, Monica Martinez, Kevin Thomas, James Gaughran, John Brooks and Anna Kaplan. Like the clip above, it's part of their campaign to pass a small tax on the super rich-- just people whose annual income is over $5 million. The purpose was to help bail out cash-strapped public schools that are facing further budget cuts, and the long-neglected subway system which just continues to decline. The 45 second clip above is Morris Pearl, the founder of Patriotic Millionaires, talking about a pervasive culture of corruption that defines Andrew Cuomo's political life. "Who says the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree? Andrew," my friend Skip Kaltenheuser quipped, "apparently fell during a tornado." Cuomo should be listening to his constituents and not just his rich donors. If he did, he wouldn't be blocking this common-sense legislation to make the lives of everyone in his state better.

Last month, no one even knew who Cheri Bustos is. Then this week, for no particular reason other than she could, she took an old DCCC nod-and-wink policy and formalized it into a rule, a rule that is meant to made it harder for Democratic challengers to primary Democratic incumbents. So now her name is well-known-- as an enemy of the netroots, just like her guru, Rahm Emanuel. Now there will be people digging around in her dirt and finding reasons to drive her out of Democratic politics-- or at least make her a pariah the way her buddy Wasserman Schultz is. This week author and former health insurance industry executive Wendell Potter exposed more of her corruption: Democrats On The Take: New DCCC Chair Is A Bets Friend Of Health Insurers-- How Health Insurance Cash Forms Opinions On Medicare-For-All. This is a very important piece for several reasons, not least of which is that as DCCC chair, she has a great deal of say over continuing to disadvantage progressives who favor Medicare-For-All, while pushing Blue Dogs and New Dems like herself, who are in politics to enrich themselves and to build a career-- not to serve; to self-serve. "Here’s a headline," wrote Potter, "you can bet my former colleagues in the health insurance business were thrilled to see last week: DCCC chief: Medicare for All price tag 'a little scary.' But it's part of a big picture with Bustos at the center since she is, explained Potter "a real pro when it comes to shaking down special interests, health insurers in particular, for the Dems."
That headline topped the lead story in the March 6 edition of The Hill, a newspaper widely read by Congressional staff and lobbyists and others in the influence-peddling business in Washington. You’ll see ads in The Hill by big corporations and special interests you won’t see anywhere else-- like the full-page “we’re-not-a-bad-guy” ad on page 2 by opioid maker Purdue Pharma and the two full-page “we’re-part-of the-solution” ads a bit deeper inside by Eli Lilly.

...I mentioned Bustos in a story I wrote on June 25, the day before Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stunned party honchos with her upset victory over longtime incumbent Joe Crowley in the New York Democratic primary. Crowley, as I pointed out, was one of a handful of House Democrats who received campaign contributions from the political action committees of all five of the biggest for-profit health insurers—Aetna, Anthem, Cigna, Humana and UnitedHealth Group. But Crowley wasn’t those PACs’ favorite Democrat in Congress. That distinction at the time went to none other than Cheri Bustos.

So it came as no surprise to see Bustos pouring a big bucket of ice-cold water on the very idea that Congress would give serious consideration to improving and expanding the Medicare program to cover every American, which polls show a big majority of Democratic voters-- and even a sizable percentage of Republican voters-- favor. When Medicare covers all of us, there will be no need for health insurers as we know them-- and we know them increasingly as barriers to getting the care we need. To delay for as long as possible the day Medicare covers everybody, the insurance industry and its allies are showering Democrats with campaign cash and providing their friends in high places-- including Cheri Bustos-- with talking points designed to scare the daylights out of people.

Bustos and I have a lot in common. We both were journalists in our first career: She was a reporter for the Quad City Times in Davenport, Iowa; I was a reporter for Scripps-Howard newspapers in Tennessee and Washington. She left journalism to go work for a big hospital system in Iowa; I went to work for a big hospital system in Tennessee (and from there to Humana and Cigna). She and I even had the same title at the end of our corporate careers-- Vice President of Corporate Communications-- and we both were paid handsomely. The Quad City Times reported that Bustos was making north of $300,000 when she quit to run for Congress. She took a sizable pay cut when she was sworn into office to represent Illinois’ 17th congressional district in 2013. I took an even deeper pay cut when I left my corporate job and blew the whistle on my former employers. I have written about politicians on the take; she is one of those politicians.

Bustos was a proven fundraiser from the start. Since 2011, when she launched her first campaign, she has raised nearly $13 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Even though she was widely favored to win reelection last year (she beat her Republican opponent by more than 24 points), she still raised $4.5 million, much of which she didn’t need or spend. That big pile of Benjamins was considerably more than the average raised by other House members.

And there’s this: Nearly 85 percent of what her campaign took in came from corporate and special interest PACs and large individual contributions. Less than 13 percent came from small individual contributions.

Most of Bustos’ campaign cash last year came from people who couldn’t even vote for her. Nearly 80 percent came from outside of her district and more than half from out of state. None of the big five for-profit insurers that wrote big checks to her campaign are based in Illinois.

Bustos’ comments in the Hill story came a week after Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) introduced The Medicare for All Act of 2019 with 107 cosponsors, and they tracked with talking points now flooding Washington by the health care industry’s new front group, the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, which comprises health insurers, drug companies and big hospital systems like the one Bustos used to work for. It was created for the explicit purpose of scaring Democrats away from any Medicare for All legislation.

“What do we have-- 130 million-something Americans who get their health insurance through their work?” Bustos was quoted as saying in the Hill article. “The transition from what we have now to Medicare for all, it’s just hard to conceive how that would work. You have so many jobs attached to the health care industry. I think the $33 trillion price tag for Medicare for all is a little scary.”

Now compare that to the messaging in the Partnership’s first digital ad last month attacking Medicare for All proposals. And note, too, that that “scary” $33 trillion figure-- which, by the way, covers a ten-year-period-- came from a study produced by a think tank funded by the Koch Brothers, two rich guys no one would mistake for Democrats. What Bustos didn’t mention is that even that study, biased as it was, concluded that sticking with our current private insurance driven-system would cost $2 trillion more than Medicare for All. Bottom line: Medicare for All would be a bargain compared to the status quo Bustos, who thrives in the swamp that is Washington, is defending.
Did someone mention Joe Crowley? Since 1990 he's taken $1,730,665. After being ousted by AOC, he promptly got a job as a lobbyist at DC's shadiest firm, Squire Patton Boggs (which is not just unethical but also illegal, albeit never prosecuted). Since he was selling access, he refused to return his VIP government parking pass until last week, almost 3 months after he was forced to vacate his offices. Turn on the lookback machine for a few minutes:

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At 7:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

an overly long piece that beats a dead horse to hamburger. We already knew that the health insurance and phrma lobbies owns the democraps. The chapter play that resulted in the ACA, and the final form it took, prove this to anyone who has a single functioning synapse. Because of ACTIONS, we know that all the leadershit in both chambers are owned.

By naming only a couple of names, you (intentionally?) give the false impression that it might only be these... when in fact it is almost all of them. And anyone not owned by health insurance and phrma are owned by wall street, CMIC, AIPAC and/or carbon.

At 11:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Defenders of obamanation love to point out that there were ONLY about 92 days where obamanation had sufficient political forces in Congress to get that lame-@$$ excuse of a legalized medical insurance corporate profit scheme in place.

How much MORE did FDR get done in just a few additional days?

That's what happens when one has a "moderate 1985 Reagan Republican" in the Oval Office waiting for Congress to do the heavy lifting on the only real accomplishment he finish in eight years while he struts about in his "cool" Presidential jacket!


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