Blue Dog Water Carriers
by Deacon Blues
The Blue Dogs told us their opposition to real health care reform was all about fiscal discipline and limiting the role of government.
Uh huh. And they were bought as well.
On June 19, Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas made clear that he and a group of other conservative Democrats known as the Blue Dogs were increasingly unhappy with the direction that health-care legislation was taking in the House.
"The committees' draft falls short," the former pharmacy owner said in a statement that day, citing, among other things, provisions that major health-care companies also strongly oppose.
Five days later, Ross was the guest of honor at a special "health-care industry reception," one of at least seven fundraisers for the Arkansas lawmaker held by health-care companies or their lobbyists this year, according to publicly available invitations.
(T)he group has set a record pace for fundraising this year through its political action committee, surpassing other congressional leadership PACs in collecting more than $1.1 million through June. More than half the money came from the health-care, insurance and financial services industries, marking a notable surge in donations from those sectors compared with earlier years, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity.
A look at career contribution patterns also shows that typical Blue Dogs receive significantly more money -- about 25 percent -- from the health-care and insurance sectors than other Democrats, putting them closer to Republicans in attracting industry support.
Most of the major corporations and trade groups in those sectors are regular contributors to the Blue Dog PAC. They include drugmakers such as Pfizer and Novartis; insurers such as WellPoint and Northwestern Mutual Life; and industry organizations such as America's Health Insurance Plans. The American Medical Association also has been one of the top contributors to individual Blue Dog members over the past 20 years.
Many liberal Democrats and advocates of health-care reform were angry about the compromise bill and view the Blue Dogs as being too cozy with drugmakers, hospitals and insurers, and they argue that the conservative Democrats should be more supportive of the agenda set by President Obama and Democratic leaders.
"The Blue Dogs are carrying water for the industry instead of their constituents," said Richard Kirsch, national campaign manager for Health Care for America Now, a liberal pro-reform group. "In effect, the Blue Dogs and the Republicans are taking positions that are closer all the time and further away from what most Americans want."
Unfortunately, Mr. Kirsch gets it wrong. The Blue Dogs' constituents are the industry, just any other Republican.