Emails Show White House Officials Coordinated With Drug Industry to Promote ObamaCare


In a 2009 radio address making the case for his not yet passed health care overhaul, President Obama called out the pharmaceutical industry: "If the drugmakers pay their fair share," he said, "we can cut government spending on prescription drugs."

A fact sheet published alongside the speech proposed cutting drug payments for senior citizens who are "dual eligible" — qualifying for both Medicare and Medicaid. But the president wasn't actually intent on changing dual eligible drug pricing, and the pharmaceutical industry knew it.

As The Washington Examiner's Timothy Carney reported earlier this week, Bryant Hall, a senior drug industry lobbyist, had the text of the speech before it aired, and sent an email to fellow drug industry representatives telling them not to worry: "The reference to Duals does NOT mean that they want to do the duals policy …. Again—this was a face save, not a real option."

During the debate over the health care law, the drug industry was never a real target. The White House just wanted to exploit the political benefits of making drug makers seem like a target. The administration also wanted the benefits of the drug industry's considerable promotional resources.

In fact, new emails made public by the House Energy & Commerce Committee show that the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) were actively involved in promoting the law — and that the White House specifically requested advertising support from the drug industry and its affiliates that would allow the administration to avoid being directly connected to ads for the law.

For example, a June 2009 email from PhRMA consultant Steve McMahon to Hall reported on discussions with White House Officials about how the drug industry could be a part of selling the health care law: "The WH-designated folks really like [a series of proposed ads featuring] testimonials and want them on the air…They understand that we a lot of resources [sic]…They definitely want us in the game and on the same side." After more discussion, PhRMA seemed ready to come on board. In July 2009, Hall sent an email to a colleague reporting on yet another meeting with White House representatives. "Went great," he wrote. "We are ready to goo. [sic] 100 percent. Rahm [Emanuel, then the White House chief of staff] asked for Harry and Louise ads thru third party. We've already contacted the agent."

The "third party" in question turned out to be Healthy Economy Now, a 501(c)4 non-profit advocacy group that PhRMA funded to the tune of $10.2 million in 2009. Healthy Economy Now's ad, a pro-ObamaCare riff on the Harry and Louise ads that famously helped derail the Clinton health care overhaul in the 1990s, ran a week later:

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  1. Thank God there’s a party not in bed with big business. Fucking Republicans.

    1. Thank god there is a politician brave enough to take on the Pharmaceutical and Insurance korporations that make healthcare unaffordable.

      1. It boggles my mind that lefties don’t read this, shout “J’accuse!“, and start publicly calling for Obama to resign. I mean, corporations bad, right?

        1. That’s funny that you think partisans aren’t completely morally corrupt and also indescribably stupid, ProL. They will do as they are told.

          1. You got that right, Epi. I know people who think the Catholic Church has no business whatsoever deciding anything regarding the health insurance it’s businesses offer. Any attempt to excercise religious freedom is a war on women. If only dogs could be so well trained.

          2. I think there’s a missing /sarc tag.

            1. Nope, I caught the peculiar whiff of sarcasm just fine.

        2. All are sinners against the righteousness of the Social Contract. But yea, they are washed clean in the blood of the lamb. For He makes his grace shine upon them, and absolves them of wrongdoing with lucrative corporate welfare and retroactive immunity.

  2. It seems each day I struggle with the following questions:

    1) Could the current administration get any dirtier?
    2) Could they get any worse at hiding it?
    3) Could the mainstream media care less?

    1. 3. is what pisses me off the most. Obama doesn’t even have to be a the Teflon President, the media won’t throw shit at him.

      1. He makes their legs tingle!

    2. Why should they hide it? No one seems to care, besides a few of us.

      1. The Republicans certainly don’t care. They want to be able to do the same thing for whatever stupid policy they want to replace Obamacare with.

  3. In July 2009, Hall sent an email to a colleague reporting on yet another meeting with White House representatives. “Went great,” he wrote. “We are ready to goo. [sic] 100 percent. Rahm asked for Harry and Louise ads thru third party. We’ve already contacted the agent.”

    Sorry, Mr. Suderman, but I think he meant it the way he wrote it.

  4. I am shocked, shocked to see this.

  5. I seem to remember some people here who kept claiming that it was illegal for the government to use propaganda against it’s own citizens. Imagine such a quaint thought.

    1. The same people that decried Bush’s bullshit propaganda that led us into a misguided war in Iraq and an ever-expanding drone war against alleged AQ foot soldiers that is killing scores of civilians think this is just dandy.

      Come to think of it, they think the wars are just dandy as well since it’s their guy running the show now.

      Vice versa is true as well, of course.

      1. ” led us into a misguided war in Iraq and an ever-expanding drone war against alleged AQ foot soldiers that is killing scores of civilians”

        Pictures or it didn’t happen.

        1. Pictures or it didn’t happen.

          Well played (if that was a joke).

      2. “Come to think of it, they partisans think the wars are anything is just dandy as well since if it’s their guy running the show now.”

        Btw, what ever happened to that word, partisan? I remember when it used to be a hit.

    2. In this case, the govt wasn’t running the ads, a third party was doing so. It’s not comparable to the Bush admin paying column writers to write favorable articles.

      1. I guess it’s a good thing that I didn’t compare them to the Bush admin then.

    3. It is illegal (at least for the State Dept), but has that ever stopped the government from doing anything? Not to mention the fact that there are zero consequences to flouting* Smith-Mundt.

      *Flouting, not flaunting

      1. Then, IMO, it’s not really worth bringing up the fact that it’s illegal. If it’s unenforceable and has no penalty attached anyway then the legality is irrelevant.

      2. You go on flaunting, Kristen!

  6. Has Suderman been infected by Venom? I can’t see why he would stop saving the masses from a lack of alt-text. “With great picture comes great responsibility.”

  7. How is this not an illegal quid pro quo? Not, in a word, “bribery”?

    1. Top Men with the best of intentions get a free pass.

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