Reporter uncovers $86 million from insurers to fight reform

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

The flow of money into politics in general, and health reform in particular, has been thoroughly opaque this election season, yet Bloomberg‘s Drew Armstrong has still managed to pull back the curtain and figure out that insurers gave $86 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which then lobbied heavily to either hamstring reform or to reshape it in the insurers’ favor. Armstrong traced the money to America’s Health Insurance Plans through classic reporting tools: public records and well-placed sources.

Tax forms require organizations to list only the amounts granted or received from other groups, not the organizations’ identities. Health insurers expressed opposition to parts of the health-care legislation while they conferred with congressional Democrats writing the bill and the White House. At the same time, the Chamber of Commerce was advertising its opposition.

The Chamber spent $45.5 million on a campaign against the bill in 2009, according to TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group, an Arlington, Virginia-based company that tracks political advertising.

The Chamber began in March 2010, weeks before the bill became law, another $10 million effort focused on pressuring lawmakers to vote against the bill. Blair Latoff, a spokeswoman for the Chamber, wouldn’t say how much of the money was spent in 2009 and how much, if any, was used in 2010.

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