Health reform looms in Mass. Senate race
By Dan Eggen
Groups opposed to health-care reform have plunged into the battle for Ted Kennedy's former Senate seat, launching an attack on Democratic candidate Martha Coakley for accepting last-minute donations from insurance and pharmaceutical lobbyists.
Coakley (D), the Massachusetts state attorney general, was the beneficiary of a fundraiser at Capitol Hill's Sonoma Restaurant Tuesday night led by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and hosted by more than a dozen prominent health-care lobbyists, according to an invitation to the event obtained by news organizations.
Among the listed hosts were power-lobbyists Tony and Heather Podesta, whose separate firms represent various drugmakers and medical device makers; Steven Elmendorf, whose clients include the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) trade group; David Castagnetti, whose firm represents America's Health Insurance Plans, Merck, Humana and others; and Thomas Boggs of Patton Boggs, which represents Bristol-Myers Squibb. The political-action committee of Boston Scientific Corp., a major medical device manufacturer, was also on the roster.
Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group opposing health reform, characterized the fundraiser as part of "a desperate attempt to preserve passage of the health insurance company bailout bill."
"This is further and conclusive proof that the only dialogue that matters during the health-care reform debate has been in the backrooms between industry lobbyists, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and the White House," said Eric Novack, a senior fellow in health-care policy for the group.
A Coakley spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday night. Top donors were asked to raise $10,000 each, according to the invitation, which was first reported by the Washington Examiner.
The Democratic fundraiser came amid polling showing a tightening race between Coakley and state senator Scott Brown, her Republican opponent. Brown's campaign said it raised $1.3 million in an Internet fundraiser on Tuesday as the political parties and outside interest groups began pouring money and advertising into the race.
Brown has pledged to vote against final health reform legislation if elected. The scenario could deny Democrats the 60-vote super-majority needed to move ahead with compromise legislation in the Senate, dramatically complicating efforts to have a bill on President Obama's desk by February.
Both candidates have sparred over Democratic health-care legislation, parts of which bear similarities to the health insurance system approved in Massachusetts under then-Gov. Mitt Romney (R). Massachusetts Democrats have stressed Kennedy's career-long quest to enact health reform as a key reason to elect Coakley.
Tuesday's fundraiser underscores the almost Byzantine politics surrounding the Obama administration's health-care plan, which was constructed in large part by requiring sacrifices from drugmakers, hospitals and other major health-care sectors in exchange for the promise of millions of new customers.
As a result, both Democrats and Republicans have spent months accusing each other of being in the pockets of the health-care industry. Hospitals, doctors, drugmakers and insurers have largely pledged their support for reform overall, even while many of them have fought back proposals for a government-run insurance option and other policies that would cut into their bottom lines.
By Dan Eggen
January 13, 2010; 6:07 AM ET
Categories: 44 The Obama Presidency , Barack Obama , Capitol Briefing , Democratic Party , Health Care , Health Care , Issues
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