Greg Sargent notes that a familiar face will start showering cash on organizations trying to build support for ObamaCare. George Soros, who once pledged his entire fortune in an unsuccessful effort to unseat George Bush, has pledged another $5 million to overcome popular opposition to the government takeover of the health-care industry. Sargent rightly notes that this will become a flashpoint for both sides of the divide:
In another sign of the urgency gripping the pro-health care reform camp, billionaire George Soros has pledged to sink $5 million into the fight, the group getting the money confirmed.
Soros — whose operation carefully guards the privacy of such donations — made the pledge to Health Care For America Now, the leading coalition of pro-reform groups, unions and providers, HCAN chief Richard Kirsch confirmed in an email that was forwarded to me. …
The Soros pledge is noteworthy, because both sides will seize on it. The right will say it shows the real astroturfing is coming from the pro-reform side — billionaire bogeyman Soros is bankrolling this fight!
The left will cite the donation to demand that HCAN show real results. Some on the left, such as blogger Jane Hamsher, have been asking why heavily-bankrolled HCAN hasn’t been able to secure more commitments from Dem members of Congress to stand firm behind a public option.
However, that group may run afoul of Rahm Emanuel and the White House. Emanuel has demanded that HCAN and other advocacy groups focus their sights on Republicans and stop attacking vulnerable Democrats — which, in this case, would be those who have shown great reluctance to get on board with ObamaCare. If HCAN takes Emanuel’s advice, it’s hard to see what they’ll use the money to do, other than buy advertising that strictly focuses on the issue. That issue hasn’t played well thus far, and $5 million of advertising won’t make a dent in the opposition.
That’s where the pharmaceutical industry’s cash will come in handy:
The drug industry has authorized its lobbyists to spend as much as $150 million on television commercials supporting President Obama’s health care overhaul, beginning over the August Congressional recess, people briefed on the plans said Saturday.
The unusually large scale of the industry’s commitment to the cause helps explain some of a contentious back-and-forth playing out in recent days between the odd-couple allies over a deal that the White House struck with the industry in June to secure its support. The terms of the deal were not fully disclosed. Both sides had announced that the drug industry would contribute $80 billion over 10 years to the cost of the health care overhaul without spelling out the details.
With House Democrats moving to extract more than that just as the drug makers finalized their advertising plans, the industry lobbyists pressed the Obama administration for public reassurances that it had agreed to cap the industry’s additional costs at $80 billion. The White House, meanwhile, has struggled to mollify its most pivotal health industry ally without alienating Congressional Democrats who want to demand far more of the drug makers. White House officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
To give this some perspective, it helps to recall that John McCain spent $126 million on advertising for the entire general election campaign in 2008. Why have the pharmaceuticals gone for ObamaCare in a big way? Obama promised not to use Medicare’s market advantage to drive down prices any more than the $80 billion already pledged by the industry. That’s basically price-fixing of a kind that the Federal Trade Commission would investigate if it involved a private-sector insurance giant.
Remind me again which side is Astroturfing and getting big, powerful firms funding their operation, and which one represents the actual sense of Americans on government-controlled health care.