Politico reports that the White House and Sen. Max Baucus helped create a corporate-backed health reform campaign by fostering a relationship with industry groups.
Baucus's chief of staff, Jon Selib, and Jim Messina, deputy White House chief of staff, spearheaded the effort to enlist traditional corporate opponents of health care reform -- cultivating a strong alliance between government and big business following the Obama campaign's harsh criticism of the Bush administration's close ties to the corporate world.
Politico reportss that an April 15 meeting at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's offices created two groups -- Americans for Stable Quality Care and the now-defunct Healthy Economy Now. Both groups have operated independently of the White House and Senate Democrats.
The Democratic officials made no overt demands. Rather, they brought together the players and laid the groundwork for the the creation of the coalition, and that was followed by more-direct solicitations from an outside Democratic consultant, Nick Baldick, retained by Healthy Economy Now, asking attendees at the meeting to join the coalition and contribute to its ad campaigns.
Meeting attendees included groups such as PhRMA, the American Medical Association, AARP, the American Cancer Society, the Business Round Table and Service Employees International Union. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and America's Health Insurance Plans attended the meeting but would not participate in the coalition.
Last week, Karen Ignangi, president of America's Health Insurance Plans, said the Senate Finance Committee's proposed health care bill would fail to make insurance more affordable for consumers. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is topping health care advertising lists for the year as it pushes against reform.
"The consequences of this would be an upward spiral; rate shock to everyone who stays in," Ignangi said.
The Associated Press reported that PhRMA, an unlikely backer of health care reform, was spending $150 million to publicly support the President's plans for reform.
From the AP:
Additionally, the industry is the major contributor to Healthy Economy Now, which recently completed a $12 million round of advertising nationally and in several states. The ads were made by companies with close ties to Democrats and the White House and generally reflected the administration's changing rhetoric on health care.