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July 19, 2009

Gang of Sickos: Six US Senators Sell Out Constituents for $11 Million from Health Industry

By Mark Eades

these senators asked for a slowdown on health care reform because the for-profit health, insurance, and pharmaceutical industries have bid them to do so in the hope that reform can be stopped, and because these same industries have generously provided them with career campaign contributions totalling more than $11 million.

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A bipartisan group of six "moderate" US senators, dubbed the "Gang of Six" by news agencies, issued a demand July 17 for a slowdown on Democratic health care reform. These senators - including three conservative Democrats, one conservative Independent who caucuses with Democrats, and two moderate Republicans - asked for a slowdown on health care reform not because their constituents wished it so: recent polls show that a clear majority of Americans want health care reform now including a public health care option such as that proposed by President Obama and progressives in Congress. No, these senators asked for a slowdown on health care reform because the for-profit health, insurance, and pharmaceutical industries have bid them to do so in the hope that reform can be stopped, and because these same industries have generously provided them with career campaign contributions totalling more than $11 million.

These six senators - whom I'll call the "Gang of Sickos" in honor of Michael Moore's film on America's health care crisis similarly titled - are Democrats Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and Ron Wyden of Oregon; Independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut; and Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine (Paul Krugman calls them "the six deadly hypocrites"). Their career total and average daily contributions from the health, insurance, and pharmaceutical industries are summarized by Paul Blumenthal at the Huffington Post based on figures from the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP).

Sicko #1: Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska, the ringleader of the group, has raised more than $2.2 million in campaign contributions from the health, insurance, and pharmaceutical industries over the course of his career according to Blumenthal, averaging more than $700 per day since taking office in January 2001. Public Campaign Action Fund (PCAF) gives a slightly lower career total of just over $2.0 million for Nelson, and provides extensive detail on his ties to the health, insurance, and pharmaceutical industries. Before entering politics, as PCAF notes, Nelson spent his career as an insurance executive, as an insurance company lawyer and, early in his career, as Nebraska's state insurance regulator. As PCAF also notes, a number of Nelson's former Senate staffers have moved on into lucrative careers as health, insurance, and pharmaceutical industry lobbyists. Comments may be addressed to Senator Nelson via his Senate contact page (Nebraska residents only) or by direct e-mail at: senator@bennelson.senate.gov (CRP: Ben Nelson).

Sicko #2: Democrat Mary Landrieu of Louisiana has raised more than $1.6 million in campaign contributions from the health, insurance, and pharmaceutical industries over the course of her career, averaging more than $300 per day since taking office in January 1997. PCAF provides extensive detail on Landrieu's ties to the health, insurance, and pharmaceutical industries. Like Nelson's former staffers, several of Landrieu's have also gone on to work as health, insurance, and pharmaceutical industry lobbyists. Landrieu's opposition to the public option was attacked in a TV ad from MoveOn aired in her home state. Landrieu is also listed as one of the twenty most corrupt members of Congress by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Comments may be addressed to Senator Landrieu via her Senate contact page (Louisiana residents only) or by direct e-mail at: senator@landrieu.senate.gov (CRP: Mary Landrieu).

Sicko #3: Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon has raised more than $1.4 million in campaign contributions from the health, insurance, and pharmaceutical industries over the course of his career, averaging almost $300 per day since taking office in February 1996. Comments may be addressed to Senator Wyden via his Senate contact page (Oregon residents only) or by direct e-mail at: senator@wyden.senate.gov (CRP: Ron Wyden).

Sicko #4: Independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut has raised almost $3.6 million in campaign contributions from the health, insurance, and pharmaceutical industries over the course of his career, averaging more than $500 per day since taking office in January 1989. This former Democrat has been the bane of progressives since his signing onto the Bush war program and his opposition to Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election. Comments may be addressed to Senator Lieberman via his Senate contact page (Connecticut residents only) or by direct e-mail at: senator@lieberman.senate.gov (CRP: Joe Lieberman).

Sicko #5: Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine has raised more than $1.1 million in campaign contributions from the health, insurance, and pharmaceutical industries over the course of her career, averaging more than $200 per day since taking office in January 1995. Unlike the "Democrats" listed above, Senator Snowe and her junior Republican colleague from Maine, Susan Collins, can perhaps be partially excused for their actions based on the fact that they are Republicans, and are only doing what all Republicans do: Deny the needs of the poor, working, and middle classes in favor of the wealthy, while pretending in Bush-Palin fashion to be the champions of "Real Americans." Nonetheless, comments may be addressed to Senator Snowe via her Senate contact page (Maine residents only) or by direct e-mail at: olympia@snowe.senate.gov (CRP: Olympia Snowe).

Sicko #6: Republican Susan Collins of Maine has raised almost $1.6 million in campaign contributions from the health, insurance, and pharmaceutical industries over the course of her career, averaging more than $300 per day since taking office in January 1997. Comments may be addressed to Senator Collins via her Senate contact page (Maine residents only) or by direct e-mail at: senator@collins.senate.gov (CRP: Susan Collins).

Based on the average daily contributions given here, Paul Blumenthal estimates that in a 70-day delay in health care reform such as that proposed by the "Gang of Six," these six senators stand to gain a further total of more than $170,000 in contributions from the health, insurance, and pharmaceutical industries, or an average of more than $28,000 ($400 per day) for each senator. While they and their families remain fully insured throughout this period, many of their less-fortunate constituents including children will remain uninsured and at risk, some will grow ill and be unable to receive care, and some will die unnecessarily. But that's not your problem, is it, Senator Sicko?

Throughout this period of bipartisan "moderate" foot-dragging on health care reform, Americans should be encourged to watch or to re-watch Michael Moore's film, Sicko, by which the title of this blogpost was inspired; and which lays bare the reasons why the United States still ranks far below the rest of the developed world in health care for its citizens. With all due respect to Mr. Moore and his intellectual property rights, I think that the urgency of the moment merits mentioning that Sicko may at present be viewed in its entirety for free at Google Video, a link to which should be sent to anyone who has not yet seen it or who may need to see it again.

Mark C. Eades
http://www.mceades.com



Submitters Website: http://www.mceades.com

Submitters Bio:

Mark C. Eades is an American writer and educator currently based in Shanghai, China. He has taught at Fudan University, Shanghai International Studies University, and in the private sector in Shanghai.

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