Tom Daschle, Secret Lobbyist

Come on, Obama! Either hire the guy away from the moneyed interests, or drop him like a bad habit!
NYT Pulls Back the Curtain on Tom Daschle, WH & Industry Front Man
By: Scarecrow Saturday August 22, 2009 6:07 pm

The New York Times does a disturbing piece on what a swell guy Tom Daschle is to be so willing to privately advise President Obama on health care while he serves as a paid political consultant to a myriad of health industry clients.

Mr. Daschle, who conveniently neglected to pay taxes on incomes only the wealthy understand, isn't a registererd lobbyist, though one wonders why he's exempt. Instead, Tom, who works for Alston & Bird, prefers to be called a "resource."
“I am most comfortable with the word resource.”
Well, no kidding. So what does a "resource" do?

1. He promotes the idea of co-ops. And just by coincidence:
It is an idea that happens to dovetail with the interests of many Alston & Bird clients, like the insurance giant UnitedHealth and the Tennessee Hospital Association. . . .

Friends and associates of Mr. Daschle say the interests of Alston & Bird’s clients have no influence on his views. They say he sees no conflict in advising private clients on the one hand and advising the White House on the other, because he offers the same assessment to everyone: Though he has often said that he favors a government-run insurance option, the Senate will not pass it.
And why are we not surprised that "friends and associates of Mr. Daschle" would think there's no conflict problem?

2. He tells his private clients how to interact with his government friends:
Clients of Alston & Bird say Mr. Daschle advises them, sometimes indirectly through the firm’s registered lobbyists, about the personalities of his former colleagues, as well as strategies to achieve their policy goals.
That's nice. I wonder what the best approach is for talking to the President about how to stall or undermine effective health care reform?

3. He presumes to speak for the Administration's plan:
Mr. Daschle does not shrink from his leading role in the debate. Speaking at a hospital industry conference last week, for example, he accepted billing as “the architect of President Obama’s health care plan.”

Before such industry groups, Mr. Daschle can sometimes cheer on their lobbying efforts, as he did at a meeting on Aug. 8 of chain drugstore executives when he urged them to push lawmakers to raise certain Medicaid reimbursements.
4. He promotes an agenda -- the co-op concept and deferred triggers for a public plan that he developed with Dole, et al -- that is inconsistent with the majority of Congressional Democrats and the American people:
Their proposal, released in June, was among the first to spell out the idea of helping states establish health insurance “co-op plans with consumer boards.”

Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota and one of Mr. Daschle’s closest friends, began pitching the idea at about the same time and has become its champion. . . .

As a backstop, their plan provided that if state co-ops or other programs failed to meet certain cost and coverage goals in five years, the president could create a public plan on a fast track without threat of a Senate filibuster.

That feature, known as a trigger, was briefly acknowledged as another possible compromise by the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. Though it was little discussed, Senator Olympia J. Snowe, Republican of Maine and one of the Finance Committee’s group of six, has recently expressed support for the concept, and committee aides say the idea is under consideration.
5. He's setting the agenda for the "gang of six."
Mr. Conrad is among six members of the Senate Finance Committee working on their own compromise proposal that aides say looks increasingly like the Daschle-Dole-Baker report.
It's just a coincidence that every one of these proposals has produced a misstep by the White House and further loss of trust by the Democratic base.

If you're not yet disgusted by this blatant example of Washington's legal insider corruption, read the rest of the article. But this is sickening. It doesn't matter whether you think Tom Daschle is a force for good or ill, his dual role is unprincipled, too cute by half. And he's being allowed to mainline his industry-paid-for views right into the White House and the Senate Finance Committee. No wonder the President [continues] to praise the Republicans in the gang of six for their "hard work."

Does the rest of Congress care about this? Does anyone?

The President of the United States can meet with and take advice from anyone he chooses. But at a time when this President is struggling to regain the confidence of his own base and the American people, it's disappointing -- or revealing -- that this President continues to rely so heavily on health care reform advice from those with privileged access and conflicted allegiances to those whose reform the President says the nation's health care depends.
h/t FDL

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