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Party’s Majority Status Shapes Oversight Tack

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton is investigating deals made by the Obama administration to pass the health care law.

“I thought that the pharmaceutical industry got a very good deal, and I thought the administration could’ve gotten more from them,” Waxman said.

But he does not see that as inherently untoward.

“President Obama’s efforts to enlist the support of private industry are exactly what presidents have always done to enact major legislation. His efforts are what Americans expect of their leaders,” Waxman said in a May 31 statement.

The documents released last week by House Republicans showed that then-White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina was more intimately involved than previously known in the creation of an organization that funded millions of dollars of advertisements to boost Obama’s health care overhaul.

Messina, who is now the campaign manager for Obama’s re-election bid, also asked AARP to run robocalls in Sen. Ben Nelson’s (D) home state of Nebraska during a key moment of the bill’s debate, threatened “war” with the AFL-CIO over an advertising-related dispute and met dozens of times at the White House with a political consultant running the health care advertising campaign funded by industry groups.

Media reports in 2009 revealed the role of White House officials in creating Healthy Economy Now, a nonprofit political organization that touted in fundraising solicitations the fact that the names of donors would not be revealed.

But the documents offer a closer look at communications between the players involved.

Messina and Jon Selib, chief of staff to Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), convened an April 2009 meeting at the headquarters of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to brief an array of organizations about the planned ad campaign.

Emails show that the “Harry and Louise” ads, which are often credited with helping derail President Bill Clinton’s proposed health care overhaul, were a specific request of Rahm Emanuel, then the White House chief of staff and now Chicago’s mayor.

“Rahm asked for Harry and Louise ads thru third party. We’ve already contacted the agent,” Bryant Hall, a top lobbyist for PhRMA, said in a July 7, 2009, email.

“There is nothing new here,” Waxman said in a statement about the document release. “The advertising by Healthy Economy Now and Americans for Stable Quality Care was reported in detail in almost real time in 2009 and 2010, as was the information about the group’s members and its formation.”

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