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Media silent on conflicts of interest for Obamacare supporters

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Timothy P. Carney

Earlier in the week, I noted that former Republican majority leader Bill Frist -- vocally opposing repeal of Obamacare these days -- is getting a free pass on his potential conflicts of interest. You see, he is a partner in an investment firm that invests in health-care companies, using it's "deep expertise" in "regulatory environments," as one of its selling points.

Given that we don't know the details of Frist's investments, one should at least note, when discussing his advocacy on health-care, that he makes a living investing in health-care companies. Given that the American Hospital Association and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America both endorsed the bill, we can also assume that many of the companies in which Frist is invested stand to profit from ObamaCare and lose from its repeal.

When Frist publicly opposed repeal earlier this week, he was on stage with Tom Daschle, a consultant at a lobbying firm. We know Daschle has helped many health-care companies.

But both former majority leaders support ObamaCare, so how did the media describe them this week?

Politico:

Daschle and Frist, who is a physician and former Republican senator from Tennessee....

The Fiscal Times and Kaiser Health News:

To help them iron out problems encountered along the way, the Bipartisan Policy Center recruited two former Senate majority leaders, Democrat Tom Daschle and Republican Bill Frist.

NPR:

Bill Frist, a Republican who was once the Senate majority leader.... A heart surgeon turned politician, Frist is leading a project at the Bipartisan Policy Center, along with another former Senate majority leader, Democrat Tom Daschle

MSNBC:

former Senate leaders Tom Daschle (D-SD) and Bill Frist (R-TN)... Frist -- a Republican doctor

Daschle's and Frist's economic ties to industry are completely ignored by the media, and they are cast as bipartisan compromisers.

I predicted this would happen. How'd I know, because Bob Dole -- a health-care lobbyist -- got the same treatment when he supported Obamacare. As I wrote back then:

The New York Times, the Associated Press, Salon, the Chicago Tribune, and the Kansas City Star reported Dole's comments, but all omitted a seemingly relevant fact: Dole is a registered lobbyist with clients who stand to profit from the current Senate reform bill.

Steven Benen, a liberal, also gave Frist the rare reasonable Republican treatment. Some excerpts:

HEALTH CARE REFORM'S UNLIKELY GOP ALLY.... Given the unanimous Republican opposition to health care reform, it continues to surprise me how much support former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has given to the Democratic effort....

I'm glad Frist is saying these things anyway. At a minimum, it offers Democrats a chance to note at least some bipartisan support for the law, and an opportunity to ask Republicans why, if the ACA is so outrageous and evil, their former Senate Majority Leader likes the law and wants them to drop their repeal crusade?

This struck me as naive to the extreme, so I hassled Benen a bit on Twitter. He was kind enough to respond with a blog post the next day. This was the crux of Benen's rejoinder:

a comparable situation would be Tom Daschle endorsing a major Republican policy accomplishment. Wouldn't that be considered a fairly noteworthy development, regardless of Daschle's investment portfolio?

I would think that Daschle's lobbying clients would get plenty of play if he were advocating something the Democrats opposed -- and it should. But financial incentives also matter when advocating bigger government.

 

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