Abramoff And Medicare
January 24, 2006 - 12:24pm ET
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<!--StartFragment -->Holbo found this nugget in Hacker and Pierson's book, Off Center: The Republican Revolution and the Erosion of American Democracy:
When the debate over prescription drug coverage picked up in the late Clinton years, the pharmaceutical lobbying group PhRMA (Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association, pronounced “Farma”) went so far as to establish a faux grassroots organization that putatively represented the elderly: “Citizens for a Better Medicare.” Despite the lofty title, Citizens for a Better Medicare had few, if any, actual citizens on its rolls Its main activity was to spend millions of PhRMA dollars on slick ad campaigns supporting an industry-friendly drug plan. When Citizens for a Better Medicare came under fire, PhRMA switched its “grassroots” efforts over to the United Seniors Association, a conservative direct-mail organization that had cut its teeth with frightening scare letters to senior citizens. The United Seniors Association board included, among other GOP political operatives, Jack Abramoff …
Holbo goes on to point out how such a "factoid" could be useful as Democrats seek to link the recent corruption scandals to the GOP's function as servant to powerful corporate interests. He's right, but to do this successfully, Democrats have to find a way to talk about corruption that helps voters understand that the GOP political machine stacks the deck against the interests of ordinary citizens. The ethics problems in Washington aren't just about "special interests," they're about "monied interests." So low-income senior citizens and their underfunded advocacy groups can't compete in the Medicare reform battle against the arm-twisting purchased by the pharmaceutical companies and delivered by the Republican Party. This bipartisan focus on trips taken and dinners consumed by individual congressmen and women obscures the sinister operation of the K Street project and poisonous influence of corporate campaign contributions. Maybe Dems should adopt "pay-to-play" as the new mantra to describe the system put in place by Republicans.
Harry Reid was beginning to spin this larger narrative last week with this statement responding to Republican ethics reform proposals:
Some problems have no legislative fix, and the Republican culture of corruption is one of them. Today’s announcements by House and Senate Republicans should be taken at face value–minor wrist slapping and good public relation stunts by the same people responsible for this mess. Democrats will lead the tough reforms, because we owe it to the American people to stand up for their interests over special interests. Are we really going to believe that Republicans will stop answering the calls from their friends on K Street? Are they really going to put seniors ahead of drug companies when it comes reforming Medicare? Are they really going to help families over oil companies when it comes to gas prices? The answer to these questions is no, and that’s why the American people trust Democrats to clean up Washington and put their interests first.
But then he backpedaled by apologizing for his tone. If the Democrats want to get "traction" out of the GOP corruption scandal, they have to stop diluting their message when they have the facts to back it up.
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