Contest Semifinals Day II: Vote for Member Who Just Won’t “Walk the Talk”

Yesterday we had a great showdown between Blue Dog Mike Thompson, DLCer Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Danny Davis.  We’ll reveal the Day I finalist on Monday of next week. 

I was on MSNBC yesterday talking about the Democrats who are now talking about opposing more troops for an increasingly unpopular Afghanistan war, and asking why they didn’t come to this conclusion in June, when 40 of them could’ve done something about it.  Somehow, they are always just shy of the number needed to block bad bills from passing. They seem to take turns doing everything but what it would take to make good on their commitment to the principles they say they hold.

So, let’s look at three more semifinalists and explore why their rhetoric about supporting a "public option" may ultimately wind up being little more than that — rhetoric.

Here are our Day II Semifinalists:

Anna Eshoo

Anna Eshoo has been PhrMA’s woman on the Hill. She was a sponsor of the Eshoo/Barton amendment that extended the period of monopolies for biologic medicines and blocks the registration of generics, which was a giant wet kiss to drug manufacturers.   

She voted "no" on allowing the reimportation of prescription drugs, but cosponsored the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act of 2007.  That bill, of course, had no chance of passing since George Bush would never sign it.  

Her PAC donors are a who’s who of the pharmaceutical world:  Pfizer, Amgen, Baxter Healthcare, Genentec, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Novartis, and AstraZeneca just for starters.  So far over $58,000 of the $86,000 she’s raised from health care interests in the 2010 cycle have come from drug company interests.

Individual donors include money from lobbyist David Castagnetti, whose firm is being paid by AHIP and Humana to kill the public option.  Eshoo’s former legislative director Stacey Rampy is another donor who now works for Castegnetti, as do David Thomas and Kelly Bingel, who also made Eshoo campaign contributions.

She has said she is committed to a public insurance option:

Eshoo said legislation without a public option would fail in the Democrat-dominated House of Representatives: "I think that the White House can’t help but have a strong sense of where the House is and how many votes that represents."

 She notably did not say whether her vote would be one of them.

 James Clyburn

Clyburn has been saying of late that we should "compromise" on the public option:

"We ought to set up some pilot programs regionally around the country," Clyburn, the No. 3 leader in the House of Representatives, told McClatchy. "What you’re trying to do is find out what works and what doesn’t work."

The deal offered by Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat with close ties to the White House, was the latest signal that Obama may back off his previous insistence on a full public option when he addresses a joint session of Congress Wednesday.

Then after a four-year trial run, we could expand it if it doesn’t drive up costs like the Republicans say it will.

Clyburn has taken $15,000 in PAC donations from health insurance interests including HealthSouth, Humana, WellPoint, and UnitedHealth this cycle, and $46,000 from pharmaceutical interests including Amgen, Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson and Merck.  He’s raked in over $120,000 in contributions from the health care sector for the 2010 cycle.

His donors include Matthew Berzok who lobbies for Blue Cross/Merck, and also Steve Elmendorf, whose firm that is being paid $180,000 to prevent the public option from ever happening.   Lobbyist Robert Cogorno of the Elmendorf firm is another donor.

PhRMA paid Clyburn’s travel expenses to a forum they held in 2007. His former policiy director Aranthan Jones is now a lobbyist for the Podesta Group, and lobbies for CH2M HILL, DaVita Inc, Forsyth Institute, Genzyme Corp and National Assn for Home Care.  Jones also lobbies for Universal America Corp, a holding company that owns several insurance firms who target senior citizens with supplemental insurance.

On July 13, Clyburn was predicting that a public option would pass and get through the Senate via reconcilliation.   By September 8 he was on Bloomberg TV saying "I do not believe that we have to get to a public option on day one if it takes three, four, five years to get to the public option, the robust public option, I think that’s what we ought to do.”

Henry Waxman

In July, Henry Waxman famously said that House Democrats "will not budge" on the public option.  By September, "he acknowledged that the public option might not be an absolute necessity."

Why the turnaround? 

As Chairman of the  Energy and Commerce Committe, Waxman has been pulling down big health care PAC donations:  $5000 from Humana, $5000 from Medco Health Solutions, $2500 from Blue Cross Blue Shield.  All in all, over $119,000 in donations from the health care sector for 2010. 

Individual donors include lobbyist Julian Haywood, lobbyist from Eli Lilly who served as counsel on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee under Chairman Waxman for the past 8 years; Michael Bromberg, AHIP lobbyist; Frederick Graefe, who lobbies for Medco Health Solutions; Matthew Berzok, lobbyist for Blue Cross and Merck; Patrick Geraghty, the CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield; and Patricia Riley, a Senior VP of Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Former staffer Paul Kim was Counsel to Waxman, and now is a lobbyist for Foaley Hoag LLP.  His clients include Abbott Laboratories, Adamas Pharmaceuticals, Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Amgen Inc, AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, AstraZeneca PLC, Biogen Idec, Biotechnology Industry Organization, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Cubist Pharmaceuticals, Eli Lilly & Co, Genzyme Corp, Gilead Sciences, Guilford Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co, Novartis AG, Pfizer Inc, Pharmaceutical Rsrch & Mfrs of America, Roche Holdings, Sanofi-Aventis.

It’s noteworthy that Waxman is publicly fighting with the White House and attempting to scuttle the part of their PhRMA deal that would protect the Medicare "windfall" for drug manufacturers, who charge much less for the same drugs through Medicaid.  If he wins it will be a big victory.  If he loses, another moment of "good intentions" is going to be somewhat less praise worthy.

Jane Harman

I think Harman won her heat more because she’s Jane Harman than anything else.  She actually told Mike Stark that she’d vote against any bill that doesn’t have a public plan,  and has only raised $5750 from health care interests this cycle.  Again, we’ll see if she lives up to it.  Her arm has been notoriously easy to twist in the past.

So, there we have it. All of these members are in strong Democratic districts whose seats could only be threatened by primary challenges from other Democrats.

Click here to vote for the one whose excuse you think just doesn’t cut it, the one who just can’t seem to"walk the talk."

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