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“The Increasingly Confusing World Of Campaign Finance”: Koch-Backed Small Business Front Group Added To ALEC Board

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), a big business-funded group that claims to be the “nation’s leading small business association,” has joined the corporate board of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or “ALEC.” It marks perhaps the final step towards the NFIB abandoning any pretense of being a nonpartisan representative of small business owners.

ALEC has been described as a “corporate bill mill” that allows big business interests to peddle influence with ALEC’s legislative members — who are almost entirely Republican — and push “model” legislation that tends to benefit the corporate bottom line or advance an ideological agenda. The NFIB has long been an ALEC member, and this week joined the ALEC corporate governing board, which meets jointly with the ALEC legislative board and helps set the agenda and fundraise for the organization.

The announcement of the NFIB’s board membership came the same day the New York Times revealed that the the health insurance lobby, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), laundered $1.6 million through the NFIB’s dark money advocacy arm in 2012 to attack Democratic Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas. This is on top of the $850,000 that the insurance group gave to NFIB the year before.

The New York Times wrote:

“The largely hidden role of the for-profit health insurers highlights the increasingly confusing world of campaign finance, as nonprofit groups such as the National Federation of Independent Business and its Voice of Free Enterprise program can keep their donor lists secret and then present their carefully fashioned message, financed in large part by big business, as if it is coming from, perhaps, a more sympathetic voice.”

Even the small business owner featured in the NFIB’s ad, John Parke of Little Rock, Ark., said he didn’t know the message was being bankrolled by the insurance industry — but says he should have been told.

“It is relevant to understanding who is sponsoring the message,” he said.

AHIP represents dozens of insurance companies, some of which are ALEC members, such as Guarantee Trust (which chairs ALEC’s Health & Human Services Task Force) and State Farm (which is also part of the ALEC corporate board).

Yet the insurance lobby donation wasn’t the NFIB’s biggest grant in 2012, which is the most recent year that records are available. The biggest donor to NFIB and its affiliated groups was the Koch brothers-backed Freedom Partners, an outfit that Politico described as “the Koch brothers’ secret bank.” Freedom Partners gave NFIB and its affiliates $2.5 million in 2012. NFIB received an additional $135,000 that year from another Koch funding outfit, the Center to Protect Patient Rights.

A Koch representative also sits on the ALEC corporate board.

A small business owner who joins the NFIB pays $195. Which means the Koch network’s donations to NFIB in 2012 was the equivalent of over 13,500 individual memberships. AHIP’s money amounted to more than 8,200 memberships.

Which raises the question, who does the NFIB speak for?

Small business owners run the gamut politically. Around a third say they are Republican, one-third Democrats, and one-third independent. Yet the NFIB’s political spending has not been representative of the small business owners it claims to represent. Its political donations go almost entirely to Republicans. And the NFIB’s funding sources place it squarely within the right-wing infrastructure.

The NFIB’s partisan and big business ties became evident in 2010, when it launched the lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act that eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court. That year, Karl Rove’s dark money outfit Crossroads GPS gave the NFIB $3.7 million. The Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation (which also donates to ALEC) chipped-in an additional $100,000.

Prior to the healthcare lawsuit, the biggest contribution to the NFIB from an outside source was $21,000.

 

By: Brendan Fisher, PR Watch, The Center for Media and Democracy, August 1, 2014

August 3, 2014 Posted by | ALEC, Big Business, Koch Brothers | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Knowingly Deceiving The Public”: Obamacare Truthers Get Caught In A Lie On Delinquency Rate

First, the Obamacare Truthers—the Republicans and conservatives who insist that every piece of remotely positive news about the health-care law’s impact has to be a filthy lie—lost the battle of the enrollment figures. The issue here isn’t whether the Obama administration is telling the complete truth when it says 8 million. The issue is that the Truthers predicted 3 million, 2 million, 1 million, 0 million, a death spiral. And whether the administration is gilding the lily and the real number is 8 or 7.7 or 7.4 million, the hard fact is the Truthers were just crazy wrong.

Having lost that battle, they’ve now opened fire on a second front. Maybe the enrollment numbers are wrong, maybe they’re right, the Truthers say, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is the percentage of people who actually pay their premiums.

There is some truth (as opposed to Truth) to this. People can sign up with every intention of paying and then get hit with something—an unexpected car-repair bill—and they can’t pay. Or more likely, they’re young and healthy, and they decide “What was I thinking, I got all caught up in Zach Galifianakis fever?”—and they don’t pay. And if the young and healthy (who cost the insurance companies nothing) don’t pay, then the only people in the system are the old and sick, who cost the insurance companies a lot, and premiums skyrocket.

So in some ways the “percentage paying” number is even more important than the raw enrollment number. It is, after all, the real enrollment number, the number of people actually getting and keeping health coverage. And so the second the Truthers lost the enrollment fight, they moved to the percentage battle. This will prove that Obamacare can’t work.

On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee put out a report looking at enrollment (“report” is overdoing it; it’s one page). It was methodologically pretty simple. They collected data from every insurer participating in what’s called the Federally Facilitated Marketplace (FFM) and looked at who’d signed up for coverage and who’d paid a first premium by April 15. The House panel’s answer was 67 percent.

Now, 67 percent doesn’t sound half bad to me, but the GOP spun it as yet another Obamacare disaster—it would push the “real enrollment” number down near 5 million and mean that one in three people who’d signed up for health-care coverage was already delinquent. They didn’t quite say that, but it was obviously the whole point of the report. “Tired of receiving incomplete pictures of enrollment in the health-care law, we went right to the source and found that the administration’s recent declarations of success may be unfounded,” said committee chairman Fred Upton of Michigan.

The committee got what it wanted: Headlines saying only 67 percent of ACA enrollees were paying. I’m sure there was ample coverage on Fox News, and it blasted out across the talk-radio waves. They have a talking point now, and a number, and it’s low enough that they can spin it as a lousy number.

The only problem is it’s a wrong number.

The Democratic minority on the committee released a memorandum slicing the majority’s logic to pieces in a matter of three paragraphs. Actually, it can be done in one sentence: Lots of enrollees’ first premiums weren’t even due by April 15!

Here’s a little language from the Democratic memo that lays it out a bit more fully: “As of April 15, premiums had only come due for individuals who had signed up for coverage before March 15. Five million individuals had enrolled in coverage through the marketplaces as of March 17.  On April 17, the president announced that 8 million Americans had signed up for coverage through the marketplaces. That means that more than 3 million enrollees—or nearly 40 percent of all enrollees—did not have premiums due by April 15 and therefore were not required to have paid them by that point.”

In other words, people who didn’t even have premiums due yet, and who account for 37.5 percent of all enrollees, are counted in this GOP report as part of the delinquent third.

If you don’t want to take it from Democrats, take it from the insurance officials themselves. They dispute the GOP numbers. Karen Ignani of AHIP, a large group of providers, said the pay-up rate so far in her realm has been 85 percent. The Blue Cross-Blue Shield group says 80 to 85 percent of enrollees have been paying. And WellPoint announced, on the very day of the GOP report, that its figure was 90 percent.

In addition, Talking Points Memo’s Dylan Scott got hold of the questionnaire the committee sent to insurers, and it’s a joke. One industry source—not a Democratic operative—told Scott: “Everyone who saw it knew exactly what the goal was.”

I asked the GOP staff at the committee if they had a counter to the argument that their numbers were incomplete and in essence rigged. On background, one staffer there basically told me that they didn’t have a counter. The committee press release makes it clear, I was told, that these data represent payments only through April 15, and the committee will seek another report May 20.

In other words, this staffer is saying: Yep. Which makes it rather hard to avoid the conclusion that the committee knowingly put out a bad number. Why would a committee of the House of Representatives do something like that? Well, what am I saying? We know why.

The continuing truth about Obamacare is that it’s going pretty darn well so far. The other truth is that the Obamacare Truthers will forever be among us, saying, ah, but it’s the next step that’s crucial, and that’s where the death spiral will begin! That’s our Republican Party: Hoping that millions and millions of people don’t get health coverage, just to deny the president a political win. They don’t care how many people die, as long as they take Obamacare with them.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, May 2, 2014

May 3, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, GOP, Obamacare | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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