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Why is HCAN Defending Blanche Lincoln from a Primary Challenge?

A lot of people are asking why HCAN is spending money praising Blanche Lincoln this morning:

Health Care for America Now has launched new television ads praising the two Democratic senators from Arkansas and giving quiet support to Ben Nelson, the centrist Democrat from Nebraska.

HCAN, as the coalition is known, includes liberal groups such as Campaign for America’s Future and MoveOn.org and labor unions such as the AFL-CIO.

[]

Airing on broadcast and cable in Little Rock, Jonesboro, and Ft. Smith, that ad praises Lincoln and Pryor for standing up to health insurance companies.

Hmm….”standing up to health insurance companies.” Well, that is a bit of a stretch. Goldman-Sachs expects health insurance stocks to rise by 59% with no public option, but drop 36% if there is one to challenge their monopolies and help keep costs down. Blanche has taken over half a million dollars from insurance companies in campaign donations. She went on to the floor of the Senate and guaranteed them no public option by offering up a “ransom note” on the health care bill with her pledge to join a Republican filibuster. How that qualifies as “standing up” to them is anyone’s guess.

But they’re spending $175,000 in Arkansas. That will pretty much wallpaper the state with accolades for Lincoln for “standing up” to health insurance companies, when actually she pledged to filibuster the public option on Saturday.

People gave $10, $15, $20 from their social security and fixed income checks to help FDL Action PAC put up an ad in Arkansas in September telling Blanche Lincoln to “act like a Democrat, or we’ll find someone who will.” It wasn’t one of those cheap, shitty cable buys that raises a bunch of money and then spends only a small fraction of it on ads nobody ever sees. We raised $80,000 and spent more than that ($85,000, I believe) wallpapering the state with 1,000 points of prime time network buys for two weeks. The average person in Arkansas saw the ad 10 times. Our goal was to draw out primary challengers.

It was the talk of the state, it freaked Lincoln out, and PhRMA jumped in with an ad buy in her defense (which they put out through Americans for Stable Quality Care) the next week.

But if anyone is surprised that HCAN jumped in to undo all of that, they shouldn’t be. . . .  Blanche Lincoln is an incumbent. HCAN is an extension of the incumbency protection racket. They get their money because the Democratic Party and the White House direct donors to them for the purpose of using health care reform for political advantage. PhRMA has paid for their ad buys. Their job is to see that $80 million in health care reform money makes its way into the pockets of loyal Democratic operatives and makes it easier for Democrats to get reelected.

If left to their own devices, I think the people at HCAN would do the right thing. I don’t even think Richard Kirsch is venal, he’s just unbelievably stupid.

August 13:

“We are absolutely surprised at the way that the right focused so much on this as soon as August began,” said Richard Kirsch, campaign manager for HCAN.

November 18:

The push to provide late air cover comes after a bruising at the hands of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has dumped a multimillion-dollar sum into ads, and the 60-Plus Association, a conservative seniors’ group.

“We were surprised by the scale,” said Richard Kirsch, national campaign manager for Health Care for America Now.

Really? The Chamber dropped $100 million on lobbying alone last year, and somebody is surprised they’re spending like drunken sailors against health care reform?

Because the unions are on the board and there was division in those ranks over how health care reform was going to go down, there were few opportunities to “do the right thing,” and when that happened, HCAN took them for optical reasons if nothing else. But their list of “accomplishments,” next to their stated goals, are pathetic.

Everyone bought into the “coalition” concept because that was where the money was going to flow, and they figured, well, better us than somebody else. But they did so at the price of their own personal credibility, and they’ll always have to wear that. Their concern for “health care reform” lasted only as long as there wasn’t money involved, and when millions of dollars entered the picture, most of their energies were spent trying to appear to be doing something they weren’t.

Remember Richard Kirsch’s “Guns of August?” How does protecting Blanche Lincoln from a primary challenge and insulating her from responsibility for shilling for insurance companies fit into that?

The whole “coalition” model is busted, at least as a vehicle for reform. As a way for Democratic operatives to get rich, it’s quite good. Same thing happened with AAEI and immigration. Tens of millions of dollars in foundation money from Atlantic Philanthropies, Robert Wood Johnson and Soros that was earmarked for non-partisan health care reform got shoveled out the door for attack ads against Republicans.

If HCAN’s ads on behalf of Lincoln were a surprise to anyone, they shouldn’t have been. They will continue to operate as part of the Democratic party infrastructure, try to kill primary challengers and move to protect their “own.” And that means Blanche Lincoln. If health care reform happens in the meantime, well, what a happy coincidence.

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Why is HCAN Defending Blanche Lincoln From A Primary Challenge?

A lot of people are asking why HCAN is spending money praising Blanche Lincoln this morning:

Health Care for America Now has launched new television ads praising the two Democratic senators from Arkansas and giving quiet support to Ben Nelson, the centrist Democrat from Nebraska.

HCAN, as the coalition is known, includes liberal groups such as Campaign for America’s Future and MoveOn.org and labor unions such as the AFL-CIO.

[]

Airing on broadcast and cable in Little Rock, Jonesboro, and Ft. Smith, that ad praises Lincoln and Pryor for standing up to health insurance companies.

Hmm….”standing up to health insurance companies.” Well, that is a bit of a stretch. Goldman-Sachs expects health insurance stocks to rise by 59% with no public option, but drop 36% if there is one to challenge their monopolies and help keep costs down. Blanche  has taken over half a million dollars from insurance companies in campaign donations.  She went on to the floor of the Senate and guaranteed them no public option by offering up a “ransom note” on the health care bill with her pledge to join a Republican filibuster. How that qualifies as “standing up” to them is anyone’s guess.

But they’re spending $175,000 in Arkansas.  That will pretty much wallpaper the state with accolades for Lincoln for “standing up” to health insurance companies, when actually she pledged to filibuster the public option on Saturday.

People gave $10, $15, $20 from their social security and fixed income checks to help FDL Action PAC put up an ad in Arkansas in September telling Blanche Lincoln to “act like a Democrat, or we’ll find someone who will.”   It wasn’t one of those cheap, shitty cable buys that raises a bunch of money and then spends only a small fraction of it on ads nobody ever sees.  We raised $80,000 and spent more than that ($85,000, I believe)  wallpapering the state with 1,000 points of prime time network buys for two weeks.  The average person in Arkansas saw the ad 10 times.  Our goal was to draw out primary challengers.

It was the talk of the state, it freaked Lincoln out, and PhRMA jumped in with an ad buy in her defense (which they put out through Americans for Stable Quality Care) the next week.

But if anyone is surprised that HCAN jumped in to undo all of that, they shouldn’t be.  Blanche Lincoln is an incumbent.  HCAN is an extension of the incumbency protection racket.  They get their money because the Democratic Party and the White House direct donors to them for the purpose of using health care reform for political advantage. PhRMA has paid for their ad buys.  Their job is to see that $80 million in health care reform money makes its way into the pockets of loyal Democratic operatives and makes it easier for Democrats to get reelected.

If left to their own devices, I think the people at HCAN would do the right thing. I don’t even think Richard Kirsch is venal, he’s just unbelievably stupid.

August 13:

“We are absolutely surprised at the way that the right focused so much on this as soon as August began,” said Richard Kirsch, campaign manager for HCAN.

November 18:

The push to provide late air cover comes after a bruising at the hands of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has dumped a multimillion-dollar sum into ads, and the 60-Plus Association, a conservative seniors’ group.

“We were surprised by the scale,” said Richard Kirsch, national campaign manager for Health Care for America Now.

Really? The Chamber dropped $100 million on lobbying alone last year, and somebody is surprised they’re spending like drunken sailors against health care reform?

Because the unions are on the board and there was division in those ranks over how health care reform was going to go down, there were few opportunities to “do the right thing,” and when that happened, HCAN took them for optical reasons if nothing else.  But their list of “accomplishments,” next to their stated goals, are pathetic.

Everyone bought into the “coalition” concept because that was where the money was going to flow, and they figured, well, better us than somebody else. But they did so at the price of their own personal credibility, and they’ll always have to wear that.  Their concern for “health care reform” lasted only as long as there wasn’t money involved, and when millions of dollars entered the picture, most of their energies were spent trying to appear to be doing something they weren’t.

Remember Richard Kirsch’s “Guns of August?”  How does protecting Blanche Lincoln from a primary challenge and insulating her from responsibility for shilling for insurance companies fit into that?

The whole “coalition” model is busted, at least as a vehicle for reform.  As a way for Democratic operatives to get rich, it’s quite good.  Same thing happened with AAEI and immigration.  Tens of millions of dollars in foundation money from Atlantic Philanthropies, Robert Wood Johnson and Soros that was earmarked for non-partisan health care reform got shoveled out the door for attack ads against Republicans.

If HCAN’s ads on behalf of Lincoln were a surprise to anyone, they shouldn’t have been.  They will continue to operate as part of the Democratic party infrastructure, try to kill primary challengers and move to protect their “own.”   And that means Blanche Lincoln.  If health care reform happens in the meantime, well, what a happy coincidence.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Firedoglake.com. Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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