“Koch Brothers Thriving On Confusion”: If Obamacare Is So Horrible, Shouldn’t It Be Easy To Attack Without Making Stuff Up?
Earlier this week, Reince Priebus, commenting on the Affordable Care Act, said, “People know what Obamacare is. It’s European, socialist-style type health care.” The quote struck me as fairly hilarious because the second sentence helps debunk the first — anyone who thinks the federal U.S. system is in anyway similar to European, socialist-style type health care clearly has no idea what “Obamacare” is.
The truth is, most Americans remain confused about the basics, and the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity apparently hope to make matters much worse on purpose. Watch on YouTube
Last month, AFP invested $1 million in support of a remarkably dishonest ad campaign, hoping to mislead Americans about the health care system, and this week, the right-wing group is at it again, making a six-figure ad buy in support of a radio ad.
The problem, of course, is that the message of the ad is pure garbage. Salon called it the “stupidest anti-Obamacare campaign ever,” and given some of the advertising in recent years, that’s no small claim.
The spot features a woman’s voice that tells listeners, “Two years ago, my son Caleb began having seizures … if we can’t pick our own doctor, how do I know my family is going to get the care they need?”
In reality, there’s simply nothing in the Affordable Care Act that stops consumers from choosing their own doctor. Literally, not one provision. Under a variety of HMOs, there are limits on out-of-network physicians, but that was an American norm long before “Obamacare” came around.
For that matter, if you’re a parent of a kid with seizures, the Affordable Care Act is perhaps the best friend you’ve ever had — not only does the law protect you and your family’s coverage, but it extends protections to those with pre-existing conditions, and ends annual and lifetime caps. And since treating children with seizures can get a little pricey, that’s important.
So why are the Koch brothers saying largely the opposite? Because they hope to use deceptions to scare people. It’s as simple as that.
Greg Sargent highlighted the other most obvious misleading claim.
[P]erhaps the most revealing thing of all is the ad’s warning of public confusion about the law. To buttress the impression that the ad is a catastrophe, the ad claims: “ABC News says confusion and doubt are prognosis for Obamcare.”
And it’s true: The ABC News article in question does bear that headline. But the article actually presents this not as a sign that the law itself is flawed, but as a sign that the public remains ignorant about what’s actually in it. The article is about how many Americans, even those who stand to gain from the law, are not yet aware of its benefits.
This neatly underscores the game plan behind ads like these: spread confusion about the law — in a deliberate effort to prevent folks from learning what’s actually in it — while simultaneously citing confusion about the law as evidence that it’s a disaster in hopes that folks will give up on it.
If Obamacare were really as horrible as right-wing activists and lawmakers claim, shouldn’t it be easier to attack the law without making stuff up? Wouldn’t conservatives be eager to simply give people the truth, rather than resort to ugly demagoguery?
Careful, Kochs, your desperation is showing.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 16, 2013
When Reuters reported last week that Republicans and their allies “are mobilizing … to dissuade uninsured Americans from obtaining health coverage,” it caused a bit of a stir. After all, what kind of people would invest time and energy into convincing struggling families to turn down access to affordable health care? Who would be so callous as to put partisan spite over the basic health care needs of their community?
Well, now we know. The Dayton Daily News has hidden the story behind a paywall, but the paper reported yesterday on groups like the “Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom,” which is rallying behind the “Refuse to Enroll” campaign.
With time running out, opponents of the Affordable Care Act have taken to the airwaves in Ohio and elsewhere with ad campaigns not only attacking the bill’s merits but also actively encouraging uninsured Americans not to sign up for coverage under the health care law.
The Obama administration has acknowledged the success of the law, commonly referred to as Obamacare, depends in large part on broad-based participation in federal and state-run health exchanges that will begin selling government-subsidized health plans to the uninsured on Oct. 1.
The anti-enrollment campaigns reflect the resignation and desperation of many Obamacare opponents who have given up hope of a government repeal or court-ordered injunction to stop full implementation of the law beginning next year.
This is clearly an important stage in the larger fight. Desperate right-wing activists know the law won’t be repealed; they know it can’t be stopped in the courts; and they know there’s a limit to Republican efforts to sabotage the federal health care system. So they’ve been reduced to one last-ditch effort: convince people with no health care coverage to voluntarily turn down affordable insurance so as to advance their ideological cause.
And why do conservative activists want this? It’s not altogether clear, exactly, but apparently their hatred for President Obama has overwhelmed their judgment and basic sense of morality to a degree that can only be considered alarming.
Twila Brase, for example, is putting the “Refuse to Enroll” campaign on her radio show, which is “broadcast on more than 350 stations nationwide, including the American Family Radio Network with stations throughout Ohio.” And she’ll have lots of company, including support from her Koch brothers allies.
The conservative group Americans for Prosperity, which has a chapter in Ohio, has launched another campaign attacking Obamacare with television and online ads that began airing in Ohio last week.
Joan McCarter summarized this nicely: conservatives “have to convince people that either paying through the nose for insurance or going without, all to make a political point, makes sense. Because ‘Freedom’ means never being able to go to the doctor. Seriously. They are spending millions of dollars to try to con people out of getting affordable health insurance.”
To reiterate what we discussed last week, I hope folks will pause to let this sink in for a moment. Unlike every other industrialized democracy on the planet, the United States — easily the wealthiest nation on earth — has tolerated a significant chunk of its population going without basic health care coverage. These Americans and their families can’t afford to see a doctor and are one serious illness from financial ruin. Many have died because they live in a country that allows people to go without access to basic care.
After nearly a century of politicians talking about the problem, President Obama actually signed the Affordable Care Act into law three years ago, giving working families a level of health-care security they’ve never had before, and throwing a life preserver to the uninsured. Now, Republicans aren’t just actively trying to sabotage the law, they’re telling struggling Americans it’s better to drown than accept the life preserver.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 30, 2013
I have questions. For instance, are Charles and David Koch aliens from the planet Fnerzblax 6, come here to feast on the entrails of Earth humans to give them strength for their coming war with the barbarians of Fnerzblax 4? We don’t know, and that’s what has me so concerned.
I ask because Americans for Prosperity, the group through which the Kochs channel much of their political activism, is initiating a new television campaign to get people afraid of and angry about Obamacare, and this seems to be the method of the campaign. The first ad, called “Questions,” asks whether Obamacare is going to take money from a worried-looking young mother and deprive her sick child of the care he needs to survive. Not that it would truly do these things, but hey, she’s just asking: http://youtu.be/XOMAuo4C8kk
Beyond the just-asking format, there’s a preview here of something else we’ll be seeing as Obamacare gets implemented over the next couple of years. Every problem that anyone has with anything related to health care will be characterized as a consequence of Obamacare, which in some tortured sense might be almost true. The ad mentions not being able to choose your doctor, which would be bad. If you chose an insurance plan in an exchange established by Obamacare, that plan will probably have a network of doctors from which you have to choose if you want your care paid for, and if your doctor isn’t on it, then you’ve been prevented from choosing your own doctor.
Of course, that isn’t because of Obamacare, it’s because of the way insurance works in America; it’s how it worked before Obamacare, and it’s how it’ll work after Obamacare. But it’s a lot simpler to say, “Now that we’re under Obamacare, I didn’t get to choose my doctor!” And did you know that under Obamacare, medications could come with dangerous side effects? Or that under Obamacare, kids who get shots will cry? Not only that, under Obamacare, you could get cancer and die—even if your doctor wanted to save you. In fact, under Obamacare, we’re all going to die one day. Thanks for all the misery, pain, and death, Obama.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, July 8, 2013
“A Pledge To Ensure Failure, No Matter The Consequences”: Koch Brothers Push GOP Officials To Sign Anti-Climate Pledge
The Republican Party is certainly fond of its pledges. Grover Norquist, of course, has his infamous anti-tax pledge that has interfered with federal policymaking in recent decades, and in 2011, GOP presidential candidates were pushed to endorse an anti-gay pledge from the National Organization for Marriage.
But as it turns out, there’s another pledge that’s taken root in Republican politics that’s received far less attention. The New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer reports this week on the “No Climate Tax Pledge” pushed by Charles and David Koch.
Starting in 2008, a year after the Supreme Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency could regulate greenhouse gasses as a form of pollution, accelerating possible Congressional action on climate change, the Koch-funded nonprofit group, Americans for Prosperity, devised the “No Climate Tax” pledge. It has been, according to the study, a component of a remarkably successful campaign to prevent lawmakers from addressing climate change. Two successive efforts to control greenhouse-gas emissions by implementing cap-and-trade energy bills died in the Senate, the latter of which was specifically targeted by A.F.P.’s pledge.
By now,  current office holders nationwide have signed the pledge. Signatories include the entire Republican leadership in the House of Representatives, a third of the members of the House of Representatives as a whole, and a quarter of U.S. senators.
The pledge, uncovered as part of a two-year study by the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University, forces policymakers to oppose any legislation relating to climate change unless it is accompanied by an equivalent amount of tax cuts.” [Updated: see below]
And what, pray tell, do tax cuts have to do with the climate crisis and effects of global warming? Nothing in particular, but the Koch brothers hope to make it impossible to pass any bills related to carbon emissions, and by demanding tax cuts, they’re effectively eliminating any credible policy options — as Mayer explained, “Since most solutions to the problem of greenhouse-gas emissions require costs to the polluters and the public, the pledge essentially commits those who sign to it to vote against nearly any meaningful bill regarding global warning, and acts as yet another roadblock to action.”
When President Obama unveiled his fairly ambitious new climate agenda last week, some hoped it would spur broader action in Washington. There’s still room for a comprehensive climate policy that may be more effective than the administration using the Clean Air Act to limit emissions, but it would require Congress to work towards a sensible, consensus remedy. Republicans don’t like the White House policy? Fine, it’s time policymakers sat down with environmentalists and industries to work on an alternative.
Of course, Congress can’t do much of anything with a radicalized House majority, and climate legislation appears completely out of the question — the Koch brothers have a pledge to ensure failure, no matter the consequences.
This is why we can’t have nice things.
* Update: The exact language of the pledge reads as follows: “I, ______________________, pledge to the taxpayers of the state of ______________— and to the American people that I will oppose any legislation relating to climate change that includes a net increase in government revenue.” The Koch-financed opponents of combating the climate crisis see this as different from Mayer’s description, though it’s worth emphasizing that since any meaningful policy would generate revenue, the pledge would effectively call for tax cuts to guarantee revenue neutrality. As for why far-right anti-climate activists would oppose new government revenue — which could ostensibly be applied to deficit reduction, which conservatives occasionally pretend to care about — your guess is as good as mine.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 3, 2013
“Where There’s Smoke, There’s Money”: Tobacco Giant Reynolds American Inc Funded Conservative Nonprofits
Tobacco giant Reynolds American Inc. last year helped fund several of the nation’s most politically active — and secretive — nonprofit organizations, according to a company document reviewed by the Center for Public Integrity.
Reynolds American’s contributions include $175,000 to Americans for Tax Reform, a nonprofit led by anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, and $50,000 to Americans for Prosperity, a free-market advocacy outfit heavily backed by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.
The tobacco company’s donations are just a fraction of the nearly $50 million that those two groups reported spending on political advocacy ads during the 2012 election cycle, almost exclusively on negative advertising. Federal records show that Americans for Prosperity alone sponsored more than $33 million in attack ads that directly targeted President Barack Obama.
But the money, which Reynolds American says it disclosed in a corporate governance document at the behest of an unnamed shareholder, provides rare insight into how some of the most powerful politically active 501(c)(4) “social welfare” nonprofits are bankrolled.
Reynolds American is the parent company of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, which makes Camel and Winston brand cigarettes.
“The shareholder specifically requested that we disclose information about 501(c)(4)s, and in the interests of greater transparency, we agreed,” Reynolds American spokeswoman Jane Seccombe said.
Large corporations — tobacco companies or otherwise — almost never release information about their giving to such groups, and it’s most unusual for the groups themselves to voluntarily disclose who donates to them.
These groups, which obtain their nonprofit status because they say their “primary purpose” is not political activity, are generally under no legal obligation to detail their funding sources. Super PACs and other recognized political committees, by contrast, must report the names of their contributors who give more than $200 and the amounts they give.
Yet during the 2012 election cycle, various social welfare nonprofit organizations, emboldened by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision in January 2010, spent more than $250 million to promote or attack federal political candidates, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. The source of most of that money remains a mystery.
Reynolds American’s other contributions last year to 501(c)(4) groups include $100,000 to the Partnership for Ohio’s Future, an organization run by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce that spent several million dollars in a failed 2012 ballot initiative campaign to uphold a law limiting public workers’ collective bargaining rights. It also gave $12,500 to the National Taxpayers Union, a 501(c)(4) group that backed Republican candidates last year with modest expenditures.
Ohio Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Linda Woggon told the Center for Public Integrity she wasn’t aware that Reynolds American planned to disclose its donation to Partnership for Ohio’s Future.
But Woggon said she did not have a problem with officials there doing so, adding that “the decision is up to the company.”
Americans for Prosperity, which in 2011 reported to the IRS it received more than $25.4 million in contributions and grants, “leaves it up to our supporters” to decide whether to reveal their donations,” spokesman Levi Russell said.
“It’s their right, and we respect it,” he said.
Officials at Americans for Tax Reform, which in 2011 reported to the IRS that it received nearly $4 million in contributions and grants, did not reply to several requests for comment.
Within the tobacco industry, Reynolds American competitor Lorillard, which manufactures Newport brand cigarettes, has no nonprofit donation disclosure policy in place.
Ronald Whitford, the company’s associate general counsel, said Lorillard “could look at possibly enhancing disclosure in the future.”
Altria, the world’s largest tobacco company, does make contributions to politically active nonprofit organizations, spokesman Bill Phelps said — but he would not name any beneficiaries.
Altria’s corporate policy only requires it disclose its contributions to 501(c)(4) nonprofits in narrow circumstances, none of which applied to its 2012 donations, Phelps said.
For example, Altria, which makes Marlboros, the top-selling cigarettes, would publicly disclose a contribution if a nonprofit used at least $50,000 specifically for “political activities” as defined by the Internal Revenue Service — but only if the nonprofit informed Altria of this fact.
The IRS considers political activity to be the “participation in, or intervention in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”
Therefore, by its own rules, Altria would not disclose contributions that a 501(c)(4) used to fund so-called “issue advertisements” that are sometimes barely distinguishable from ads that directly advocate for or against a politician.
Politically active nonprofit groups such as Americans for Prosperity and Crossroads GPS, which was co-founded by GOP strategist Karl Rove, together spent millions of dollars on these kinds of communications last year.
Reynolds American’s written corporate policy on nonprofit donation disclosure is similar to that of Altria. But the policy “represents the minimum disclosure threshold,” said Seccombe, the company spokeswoman.
Reynolds American specifically acknowledged its donation to Americans for Tax Reform “because of expected stakeholder interest, not because the contributions were intended to be used or were in fact used for ‘political activity’ as that term is meant for purposes of the Internal Revenue Code,” Seccombe added.
She declined to speculate on which 501(c)(4) organizations Reynolds American will donate to this year. But officials will release information on its 2013 donations early next year, she said.
The company’s actions, although limited and hardly in real time, “set a precedent” and are “to be commended,” said Bruce Freed, president of the Center for Political Accountability, which tracks and advocates for political transparency by corporations.
“We just haven’t seen this with other companies related to their giving to (c)(4)’s,” Freed said.
By: David Levinthal, The Center for Public Integrity, May 31, 2013