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Obamacare improves another life: Bill’s architect cashes out to pharma giant

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Timothy P. Carney,Politics Digest

Liz Fowler worked for Democratic Senator Max Baucus in the first half of last decade, and so it wasn’t surprising when she cashed out to run the lobbying shop at Wellpoint, the nation’s largest private insurer.

After all, that’s what Max Baucus staffers do. They become high-paid lobbyists for powerful companies dependent on government. Former Baucus chief of staff David Castagnetti is now a lobbyist partner at Mehlman, Vogel, Catagnetti. Successor Jeff Forbes is a partner at Cauthen, Forbes, and Williams. Baucus’s chief trade counsel Scott Parven doesn’t have a lobbying firm named after him, because he sold his firm to K Street giant Akin Gump. There are literally dozens of others.

It also wasn’t surprising when Baucus hired her back to help write Obamacare. After all, Baucus is famously close with K Street and industry lobbyists.

Given Baucus’s central role in drafting Obamacare, and lobbyists’ access to Baucus, it wasn’t surprising either when the bill won the backing of the biggest health-industry lobbies in the country — Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the American Medical Association, and the American Hospital Association.

Obamacare was a porkfest for special interests, giving them subsidies, forcing people to buy their product, giving drugmakers lengthy monopolies, preserving the special favors Republicans had given them, protecting them from competition.

After the bill passed, many of the bill’s authors and key supporters rushed to take their payday.

Senate Health Committee staffer Connie Garner, who helped write the subsidies for long-term care, launched a practice working with long-term-care providers.

Arlen Specter’s health-care guy, John Myers, cashed out to the Glover Park Group, where he now represents Obamacare recipients like Planned Parenthood, United Health, Trygg Pharma, and Sucampo Pharmaceuticals. Another Obamacare author now lobbying at GPG is Liz Engel, who was health policy director at the Senate Democratic Policy Committee.

Nancy Pelosi’s top health-care aide left for K Street, as did other staffers from Senate Health Committee, House Democratic Policy Committee, and the Ways & Means Committee. Their clients include big pharma, insurers, hospitals, and so on.

Liz Fowler originally didn’t go that route. She went instead to the administration. You know, the Obama administration, which doesn’t hire lobbyists. At HHS, she helped implement Obamacare.

So, now, of course, she’s taking her third spin through the revolving door, to run the lobbying shop at Pharma giant Johnson & Johnson. This helps highlight what Obamacare was about: further enmeshing healthcare and government, thus creating more demand for revolving-door lobbyists.

I liked the reactions of Natasha Lennard at Salon and Glenn Greenwald at the Guardian.

Lennard:

Liz Fowler, well known as the architect of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, never really left the healthcare industry….

Fowler’s dizzying spins through the Washington/healthcare industry revolving door dampen any arguments that aim to frame Obamacare as a progressive victory over health insurance companies.

Greenwald’s response to Fowler’s move is characteristically cutting and lengthy. Some highlights:

The pharmaceutical giant that just hired Fowler actively supported the passage of Obamacare through its membership in the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) lobby. Indeed, PhRMA was one of the most aggressive supporters – and most lavish beneficiaries - of the health care bill drafted by Fowler….

This is precisely the behavior which, quite rationally, makes the citizenry so jaded about Washington. It’s what ensures that the interests of the same permanent power factions are served regardless of election outcomes. It’s what makes a complete mockery out of claims of democracy. And it’s what demonstrates that corporatism and oligarchy are the dominant forms of government in the US….

That’s a good reminder of what Obamanomics and Bushonomics have in common.

 

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