As she campaigns for the presidency, Hillary Clinton is heralding the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank Act, yet she has infused her staff with former lobbyists and consultants who did all they could to block the two reforms.
In a Jan. 17 debate with her two Democratic rivals (Martin O’Malley has since dropped out), she hailed the Affordable Care Act as “one of the greatest accomplishments of President Obama, of the Democratic Party and of our country.” Now, The Intercept has published a report saying that Clinton’s team of strategists and fundraisers includes a number of former consultants and lobbyists for businesses that worked against Obama’s proposal for health care reform.
According to the website, one of Clinton’s biggest fundraisers, Heather Podesta, worked with several health insurance companies to spend $86 million in TV and radio ads opposing Obamacare.
Consultants associated with the Dewey Square Group, a lobbying firm that has been retained by business interests to defeat a variety of progressive reforms, are playing a major role in the Clinton campaign. Charles Baker III, the co-founder of Dewey, is a senior strategist and the campaign’s chief administrative officer. Michael Whouley, another Dewey co-founder, played an early role in advising Clinton’s plan for the current campaign by convening some of the very first strategy sessions. Senior Dewey officials Jill Alper and Minyon Moore are also close advisers and fundraisers for Clinton, while at least four other Clinton officials have worked at Dewey within the last four years. In addition, disclosures show that Clinton’s Super PACs Priorities USA Action and Correct the Record have also paid Dewey Square Group for a variety of services in this election.
Dewey, for instance, worked on behalf of the health insurance industry during the health reform debate, specifically to block the changes to Medicare Advantage that were critical for financing the Affordable Care Act. Medicare Advantage, which allows Medicare beneficiaries to use plans administered by private insurers, had long served as a cash cow for the health insurance industry. By one estimate, insurance companies over-billed the government by nearly $70 billion in improper payments over just a five year period. Dewey, which had been tapped by health insurers to block cuts from the program starting in 2007, continued during the Obama era to lobby to protect Medicare Advantage, even as such reforms became a major part of how Democrats and the Obama administration sought to finance the Affordable Care Act.
One of the more deceptive components of the Dewey lobbying strategy was uncovered when an editor at the Lawrence, Massachusetts, Eagle-Tribune realized that the firm had worked quietly to place letters to the editor against cuts to Medicare Advantage under the names of elderly Massachusetts residents without their knowledge or consent.
Dewey received $772,110 in 2009 from the National Restaurant Association, which has lobbied against raising the minimum wage.
Members of Clinton’s staff also lobbied against the Dodd-Frank Act, aimed at Wall Street corruption. That legislation was inspired by the financial crisis of 2008 that wiped out the savings of many Americans.
In December, in an op-ed piece for The New York Times, Clinton wrote: “People’s savings are being restored. And we have tough new rules on the books, including the Dodd-Frank Act, that protect consumers and curb recklessness on Wall Street.”
Yet The Intercept found that Clinton’s chief pollster and strategist, Joel Benenson of the Benenson Strategy Group, lobbied on behalf of Citigroup and Goldman Sachs and worked for many years to weaken a wide variety of Dodd-Frank reforms. Another campaign adviser, Steve Elmendorf, was at one time retained by Goldman Sachs and tapped by Citigroup to help push through a bill that would have allowed banks to avoid financial regulations by moving certain operations overseas. And Jeff Berman, who is leading Clinton’s delegate strategy, previously worked for TransCanada as a lobbyist for the Keystone XL project. The oil pipeline’s extension was eventually blocked when Obama rejected it late last year.
Hillary Clinton’s embrace of Washington lobbyists offers a frightening picture of what her administration might look like if she is elected.