WASHINGTON ― When celebrities, high-level party operatives and the blue blazer-and-khaki crowd of staffers and journalists join together for the highly publicized Snoop Dogg concert immediately following presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, they’ll be doing so thanks to funding from two of the biggest lobbying forces in Washington.
Through a fundraising committee called Unity Convention 2016, three super PACs are organizing the Snoop Dogg Unity event and a concert with the band Los Lobos. So far, the two biggest donors for the events are the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the lobbying arm of the drug industry, and Anthem, Inc., a major health insurer.
PhRMA and Anthem each contributed $50,000 to the committee, according to a filing with the Federal Election Commission.
Unity Convention 2016 raises money for Priorities USA Action, the super PAC backing Clinton’s presidential campaign; Senate Majority PAC, which supports Democratic Senate candidates and is closely tied to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid; and House Majority PAC, which is close to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and is tasked with electing Democrats to the House.
Each of these super PACs contributed $10,000 to help cover the cost of their convention events.
PhRMA and Anthem are major lobbying forces in Washington with significant policy interests that will arise in the next administration and Congress. PhRMA and Blue Cross Blue Shield, of which Anthem is a member, are perennially two of the top 10 lobbying groups that spend the most, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Super PACs and dark money nonprofits are closely connected to donors with important lobbying interests, The Huffington Post has previously reported.
PhRMA was the key player in the Washington influence industry to help the Obama administration push the Affordable Care Act through Congress. The lobbying group made a behind-the-scenes agreement to support the legislation as long at it did not include long-standing Democratic Party policies allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices for seniors or allow cheaper drugs to be imported from Canada and other countries.
A draft of the 2016 Democratic Party platform, however, calls for Medicare to negotiate drug prices and allows for such drug importation. In addition, the platform calls for capping the price of prescription drugs, including how much Americans pay out-of-pocket for drugs, as well as expanding community health centers that can obtain cheaper drugs and increasing how quickly generics reach the market.
The draft platform also includes a call for a public health insurance option to be created and offered to people using the Affordable Care Act exchanges. Clinton and President Barack Obama have both recently called for the public option to be adopted.
But the public option was a controversial sticking point when Congress debated the legislation. Health insurers ― including Anthem, which was known at the time as WellPoint ― were adamantly opposed to the public option and also fought against the larger bill. In fact, health insurers played along with the Obama administration publicly to influence the legislation while working covertly with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to defeat it. The public option was ultimately left out of the legislation after then-Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut ― a state that a number of major insurers, including Anthem, call home ― refused to back the bill if it was included.
That same draft platform, however, does not include a call for a single-payer health care system. Delegates affiliated with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) pushed for a platform committee vote to adopt a government-run health insurance program, essentially Medicare for everyone, but were defeated by delegates connected to Clinton. Nothing scares health insurers more than efforts to replace them with government-provided insurance, as that would essentially put them out of business.
Insurers, including Anthem, are currently funding the opposition to a Colorado ballot initiative to create a single-payer system for the state. Insurers have pumped $1 million into a ballot committee called Colorado for Coloradans to oppose Amendment 69, The Intercept reported. Anthem is the largest donor to the opposition, with a $500,000 donation. The Anthem-backed opposition employs a litany of Democratic Party consultants, including one employed by Priorities USA Action.
Even more pressing for Anthem, though, is its pending merger with rival insurer Cigna, which comes at a time of increasing consolidation and monopolization across all industries.
Democratic senators, including Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, have called for the Department of Justice to block the Anthem-Cigna deal, as well as a merger between Aetna and Humana. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), an increasingly influential politician who joined the push for the DOJ to reject the Anthem-Cigna merger, recently called for a new era of antitrust enforcement to prevent the consolidation of economic and political power.
And for the first time since the 1980s, the Democratic Party’s platform includes a call to “enhance the antitrust enforcement arms of the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission, and encourage other agencies to police anticompetitive practices in their areas of jurisdiction.”
The Snoop Dogg concert is just one event planned for the week of the Democratic convention. Because a super Pac is funding it, its donors are required to be revealed to the public. There will be dozens more parties and events to fete lawmakers and other officials around Philadelphia that will be funded by undisclosed corporate interests.
Apr 03, 2017 0