Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota) has hired pollster and political consultant Ed Rollins to run her campaign for president, if she does run for president. Rollins managed Ronald Reagan's 1984 re-election campaign, which ended in a landslide for Reagan. Rollins also managed Ross Perot's 1992 Presidential bid, and was campaign chair for Mike Huckabee's 2008 bid for the Republican presidential nomination. In 1993, Rollins managed Christie Todd Whitman's campaign for governor of New Jersey. The New York Times reported that in that campaign, Rollins paid out about $500,000 in "walking around money" to black ministers and Democratic party workers in exchange for promises not to rally votes for Ms. Whitman's opponent, incumbent Gov. Jim Florio. In New Jersey, such "street money" is intended to cover incidental Election Day expenses to help get out the vote, like providing bus fare, cab fare or lunch for poll workers. The individual payments Rollins made in Whitman's campaign were small enough to evade campaign reporting requirements. Rollins' effort to depress the black, urban vote in New Jersey were pivotal in helping Ms. Whitman win a narrow victory in that election.
Of the many supporters of a single-payer health care system in the United States, some of the most ardent are small business owners who have struggled to continue offering coverage to their workers.
Among them are David Steil, a small business owner and former Republican state legislator in Pennsylvania who earlier this year became president of the advocacy group Health Care 4 All PA.
Another supporter is Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, who last Thursday signed a bill that sets the stage for the country's first single-payer plan. If all goes as Shumlin and the bill's many backers hope, all 620,000 Vermonters will eventually be enrolled in a state-run plan to replace Blue Cross, CIGNA and other private insurers whose business practices have contributed to the number of Vermonters without coverage -- approximately 60,000 and growing.
Harold Camping poured millions of dollars into his global PR campaign to convince people around the world that Earth as we know it would end on Saturday, May 21. Some believers who took his prediction to heart gave up their homes, their jobs and liquidated their worldly assets to buy more advertising to advance his message. But the biggest sacrifice that occurred as a result of Camping's prediction is a 14 year old girl from Russia who reportedly hanged herself to avoid being left behind with the nonbelievers Camping claimed would suffer on Earth after the rapture. The Christian Post reported that in the days leading up to May 21, Nastya Zachinova of Central Russia's Republic of Mari El wrote entries in her personal diary that revealed she was terrified of the suffering Camping predicted would come, and that she didn't believe she was one of the "righteous" who would rise up to heaven and be saved. On Monday, May 23 -- two days after the world failed to end as he predicted -- Camping faced the media and gave a statement acknowledging his "error." After he was finished speaking, a reporter informed Camping that a mother who had believed his prediction had attempted to kill herself and her two children, but did not succeed. Camping said he was relieved she did not succeed. But when a reporter pressed Camping about whether he would accept any responsibility for the mother's attempt, Camping answered he would not. "I don't have any responsibility. I can't take responsibility for anybody's life. I'm only teaching the Bible," Camping responded. Presumably he accepts no responsibility for Nastya Zachinova's death, either.
The reaction of health insurers to the Obama administration's requirement that they start justifying rate increases of 10 percent or more was quick and predictable: "Not fair!"
The PR and lobbying group America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) absolved the industry of any responsibility for constantly rising premiums and pointed the finger of blame at just about everyone else. The real culprits, AHIP president Karen Ignagni insisted, are greedy doctors and hospitals, state legislators who make insurers provide coverage for an overly broad range of illnesses, and, of course, irresponsible American citizens, especially healthy young people who decide not to buy insurance.
According to news reports, the Charles G. Koch Foundation has bought "the right to interfere in faculty hiring at a publicly funded university." Kris Hundley of the St. Petersburg Times reports that the elder Koch brother's foundation "pledged $1.5 million for positions in Florida State University's economics department. In return, his representatives get to screen and sign off on any hires for a new program promoting 'political economy and free enterprise.'"
You might not realize it, but this is National Small Business Week. I'm betting many small business owners aren't aware of it, either. Perhaps that's because most small business owners are far more likely to be worrying about whether they'll be able to offer health insurance to their employees for another year.
Or is this the year they join the ever-growing list of small businesses that have been "purged" by their insurance carrier?
For several years now, insurance companies have been "purging" small business accounts they no longer consider profitable enough or that their underwriters believe pose too much risk. I became familiar with"purging" (yes, that's the actual word insurance executives use internally) toward the end of my career as an industry PR man.
Like many others, I've heard President Obama talk about his mother's insurance problems during her final months in 1995. The memory of his mother having to devote precious time and energy pleading with her insurer to pay her mounting medical bills fueled Obama's determination to focus on passing health care reform.
But I didn't realize until reading a new book about the president's mother that the insurer she was pleading with was CIGNA, the one I used to work for. I wish I had known at the time. In my role as PR man for the company, I might have been able to help.
The U.S. Supreme Court's conservative majority granted big business another win on April 27 by granting corporations the "right" to suppress class actions challenging unfair practices. In a decision that has serious implications for consumer and employment rights, Justice Scalia's majority decision ignores traditionally-conservative judicial principles to get to the pro-business end it seeks.
Xe, the private security firm formerly known as Blackwater, has hired former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft as an ethics adviser. Blackwater gained notoriety after five of its contract security guards were indicted in the 2007 machine gun massacre in Baghdad's Nisour Square that took the lives of 17 Iraqi civilians. In the wake of that controversy, the company changed its name to Xe to try to escape its bad image. Ashcroft has faced his own ethical challenges, too, and he served as attorney general during many of the constitutional abuses conducted during the Bush Administration. In 2004, he refused to comply with Senate Judiciary Committee demands to produce copies of legal memos that lawyers in Bush administration had prepared that reportedly stated that as commander-in-chief, the president had the right to order torture. Ashcroft was also instrumental in advancing so-called federal "charitable choice" initiatives that funneled taxpayer money to religious groups amid charges that such government-funded programs violate the constitutional separation of church and state. Ashcroft also signed off on the Bush Administration's unconstitutional warrantless wiretapping programs until 2004, when he finally refused to reauthorize them and was subsequently pushed out of the administration.
On April 21, the 60 Plus Association, a front group that FireDogLake reported in 2009 is "almost fully funded by the pharmaceutical industry," started running 60-second radio ads in 30 Congressional districts thanking Republicans for voting for House Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan, which would phase out the current Medicare program completely for those under 55 years of age. 60 Plus president Jim Martin says it is "absolutely true" that Ryan's plan will phase out Medicare for those under 55, but at the same time says, "at least [Ryan is] trying to save Medicare for the future." The ads misleadingly state that Ryan's plan will "protect Medicare and keep it secure for future retirees." The group also misleadingly asserts that the GOP's budget proposal, which will turn Medicare into a voucher system, will make "no changes for seniors on Medicare now or those who will soon go on it." The ad campaign cost the 60-Plus Association $800,000.