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Yesterday I blogged about a new tactic that a plastic surgery firm was using to entice consumers to try their facelift procedure: by having their own employees post positive internet reviews of the plastic surgery procedure, Lifestyle Lift hoped to get more customers. That technique, aptly named “Astroturf marketing”, has now spread into the healthcare reform debate, too. “Grassroots” protestors, led by the conservative website FreedomWorks, have cropped up at town hall meetings on reforming the health care system. The only problem is, the “grassroots” protestors aren’t really homegrown at all—instead they are “Astroturf” protestors led by conservative lobbying groups.

The main orchestrator of these “grassroots” protests is FreedomWorks, which is run by former Republican Majority Leader, Dick Armey, who is known on The Hill as one of the top ranked ‘hired guns’. In other words, he is a corporate lobbyist with a history of directing FreedomWorks to support the goals of his lobbying clients. In fact, he has a long history of supporting the following industries (some of which have a vested interest in keeping health care reform off of the table):

  • Armey’s FreedomWork’s is actively organizing against health care reform because his lobbying firm represents pharmaceutical companies, such as Bristol-Myers Squibb, that oppose the comparative effectiveness research of the health reform plan because it may cut into their revenue for name-brand drugs.

  • Armey’s lobbying firm also represents the trade group for the life insurance industry: FreedomWorks mobilizes its members for deregulated life insurance reform.

  • FreedomWorks is currently lobbying for maintaining the U.S. reliance on fossil fuels on behalf of the domestic oil companies and on behalf of the Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheik Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

Last year, the Wall Street Journal exposed FreedomWorks for building ‘amateur-looking’ websites to promote the lobbying interests of Armey. It appears as if Armey doesn’t really care, though. Indeed, other lobbyist-run groups such as Americans for Prosperity, run by a former associate of Jack Abramoff, are joining forces with Armey to orchestrate the tea party protests. In fact, these lobbying websites are instructing members to infiltrate town halls and harass Democratic members of Congress. Although some news coverage has depicted these “grassroots” movements as real, it is yet again, another familiar Republican attempt to look like a party who actually cares about the average American family. Don’t be fooled.

43 Comments

  1. Gravatar for Lana Keeton

    Dear Mr. Mittleman, The problem lies with the more than $250 billion dollar pharmaceutical industry. And the 510(k) "approval" process at the FDA that puts thousands of untested products into the marketplace that harm thousands upon thousands of Americans. The disease mongering by industry is epidemic. Americans are not sick. Billions and billions of dollars of advertising create "illnesses" that are not curable but require a daily medication to control it.

    Being an avid patient advocate I know what I am talking about based on thousands of hours of research. Who's talking about this? Who is really looking at the root of the problem? How in heaven's name can it be solved by throwing trillions of dollars at it? Is that how you run your law firm?

    For me, I AM AGAINST THIS "HEALTHCARE" REFORM. I am not associated in any way with Dick Armey. Nor are dozens of my friends or business associates who do not want "Healthcare" Reform.

    The Congress and the White House HAVE TO STOP SPENDING MONEY THEY DO NOT HAVE!! That is it in a nutshell...nothing more, nothing less. STOP THE SPENDING!

    I personally do not have health insurance at the moment. I DO NOT WANT THE GOVERNMENT TO GIVE ME HEALTH INSURANCE. When I find the plan that suits me and is cost effective, I will buy it. Until that time, I pay out of my pocket.

    One other question? How do you back up your facts, or do you? I am really surprised to see you as an attorney on this site knocking Americans who are exercising their right to free speech.

    You have a job as an attorney based on the rule of law and the Constitution. Without our freedoms, you would not even have a job because there would be no free citizens to represent.

    Happily enjoying my right to free speech!

    All the best, regards, Lana Keeton

  2. Gravatar for Mike Bryant

    This is a great point. The fake protest , followed by national conservatives touting the "grassroot" actions, that they started is such a fraud. This message needs to get out.

  3. Gravatar for Devon Glass

    Lana:

    I appreciate you taking the time to put your thoughts out there about health care reform. The best thing about reform is that everyone will be able to have affordable health insurance, and you can purchase it from a private source or from the government with a public option. You would not be forced to buy health insurance from the government, although you would probably be better off since they have no profit motive to deny coverage.

    I think we both agree that the real issues of reform are not being addressed, namely the undue influence of industry lobbies making health care more expensive and less effective. However, reforming the health care system to make it more available and affordable will hopefully make a dent into allowing health care to be more effective. If we can lessen the influence of the insurance lobby, that would be great, unfortunately it's unlikely to happen any time soon, so that's why we get health reform like you are seeing. It's indirect, but it's the only way to really get the ball rolling.

    I believe Mr. Mittleman backs up his facts by reading the paper and what is being written online. There are numerous links to stories about this issue written in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, among many other sources. Just type in "fake health care protest" and you can see lots of information about this issue. Mr. Mittleman is not denying anyone the right to freedom of speech, he is simply making the point that you should be aware this is nothing more than manufactured anger. The protesters at these hearings are not interested in actual debate or discussion, they are determined to frustrate and prevent the actual discussion of ideas about health care reform, and they are being paid for, and bussed in by, the insurance industry. This article gives everyone a heads up about these groups and what their actual goals are, which is to prevent reform at all costs. I'm glad we all the right to free speech, and all this article does is expose the motives of that free speech, it says nothing about preventing someone from actually speaking his or her mind. I believe there should be an open and honest debate, but that's not what these protesters are looking for.

  4. Gravatar for Steve Sisko

    Are you guys serious?

    That byline on this page: "Promoting Safety. Protecting Rights" is rich!

    Personal injury lawyers? Who care about healthcare?

    You guys are a big part of the problem and you have the gall to blame Obama's stupidity on common, grassroots individuals?

    Bwa..ha...ha...

    I know this won't make it on this page for long but at least you know you've been called out.

  5. Gravatar for Ernest Franklin, CPA
    Ernest Franklin, CPA

    Thank you Lana Keeton and Steve Sisko for your comments that I agree with 100%.

    Devon Glass mentioned these protests are a result of "manufactured anger." Yes, and the anger is manufactured by the Obama administration and the liberal Democrats who apparently have not been reading the bills they are voting on. The "manufacturing" is not being done by by Dick Army and the Republican party as David Mittleman would have you believe.

    I personally am thankful for Dick Army and others like him who are making the public aware of this atrocity by those seeking power by trying to take control of yet another part of our private lives.

  6. Gravatar for Jane Akre

    Lana and All -

    Please don't confuse astroturf marketing as representative of public opinion.

    Although it might represent the views of some, astroturf marketing means placing of industry-hired individuals parading as "citizens" when they are hired-guns representing industry.

    Astroturf also involves creating/ funding and hiding behind nonprofits with wholesome sounding names such as "Citizens For Everything Good in America."

    They are nothing more than front groups lobbying for the corporate POV without the honesty to say so. They've shaped tobacco law, telecom legislation, pharmaceutical rules, food safety issues, and the selection of judges.

    Mr. Mittleman is right to point them out.

    The Center for Media and Democracy has done a superb job over the years tracking the harm astroturf marketing does to the public dialogue. "Toxic Sludge is Good For You" is produced by CMD and worth a read.

    I expect to see more examples of this in public forums as the insurance industry leaves its mark on health care reform. We'll be watching!!!!

  7. Gravatar for Nick Carroll

    Lana, Steve and Ernest:

    Please help me understand where the anger of those opposing health care reform is coming from. What specifically in the proposed bill has everyone riled up? I don't mean vague statements like "(they are) trying to take control of yet another part of our private lives," rather examples of how such a statement is true.

    As far as I can tell, the proposed bill will create a government run insurance company that would provide more affordable converage to those who currently cannot afford private insurance or were turned down due to pre-existing conditions.

    Individuals who choose to use this coverage (for whatever reason) are free to do so. Likewise, those that do not want to partake do not have to.

    Businesses of a certain size (and I've heard everything from those with payrolls of over $500k, to businesses with 50 or more employees) are expected to provide coverage to their employees. Those that do not wish to do so will face a penalty of between 2% and 8% of their payroll.

    --- Side Note: For the record (and I am certain this will get me into some very hot water), I believe that those business owners who do not provide coverage for their employees are greedy jerks. If their excuse is that they can't afford it, then they are either lying or are not running their business very well. That said, and in an effort to cover my butt just a tiny bit, I am sure their are exceptions. ---

    What's the big brouhaha over? And in case it isn't clear, I ask this question sincerely.

    PS - Where is this bill? It does seem that I should have been able to find it in the five minutes I just spent looking for it.

  8. Gravatar for Angus Hinson

    Nick, here's the bill. Extra credit to anyone who reads all 1018 pages.

    http://wwww.bit.ly/ifpET

  9. Gravatar for Steve Sisko

    Here you go Nick - Part 1

    Sec. 113, Pg. 21-22 of the Health Care (HC) Bill MANDATES a government audit of the books of ALL EMPLOYERS that self-insure in order to “ensure that the law does not provide incentives for small and mid-size employers to self-insure”

    Sec. 122, Pg. 29, Lines 4-16 - YOUR HEALTH CARE WILL BE RATIONED!

    Sec. 123, Pg. 30 - THERE WILL BE A GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE deciding what treatments and benefits you get.

    Sec. 142, Pg. 42 - The Health Choices Commissioner will choose your benefits for you. You have no choice!

    Sec. 152, Pg. 50-51 - Health care will be provided to ALL NON-US citizens.

    Sec. 163, Pg. 58-59 beginning at line 5 - Government will have real-time access to individual’s finances & a National ID health care card will be issued!

    Sec. 163, Pg. 59, Lines 21-24 - Government will have direct access to your bank accounts for electronic funds transfer.

    Sec. 164, Pg. 65 is a payoff subsidized plan for retirees and their families in unions & community organizations (like that nasty ACORN organization).

    Sec. 201, Pg. 72, Lines 8-14 - Government is creating a Health care Exchange to bring private plans under government control.

    Sec. 203, Pg. 84 - Government mandates ALL benefit packages for private Health Care plans in the exchange.

    Sec. 203, Pg. 85, Line 7 - Specifications of benefit levels for plans means that the government will define your Health care plan and has the ability to ration your health care!

    Sec. 205, Pg. 95, Lines 8-18 - The government will use groups (i.e., ACORN & AmeriCorps) to “inform and educate” (sign up) individuals for government plan.

    Sec. 205, Pg. 102, Lines 12-18 - Medicaid-eligible individuals will be automatically enrolled in Medicaid. No freedom to choose.

    Sec. 223, Pg. 124, Lines 24-25 - No company can sue the government for price-fixing. No “administrative of judicial review” against a government monopoly.

    Sec. 225, Pg. 127, Lines 1-16 - Doctors – the government will tell YOU what you can make. “The Secretary shall provide for the annual participation of physicians under the public health insurance option, for which payment may be made for services furnished during the year.”

    Sec. 312, Pg. 145, Lines 15-17 - Employers MUST auto-enroll employees into public option plan.

    Sec. 313, Pg. 149, Lines 16-23 - ANY employer with payroll $400,000 and above who does not provide public option pays 8% tax on all payroll.

    Sec. 313, Pg. 150, Lines 9-13 - Businesses with payroll between $251,000 and $400,000 who do not provide public option pay 2-6% tax on all payroll.

    Sec. 401.59B, Pg. 167, Lines 18-23 - ANY individual who does not have acceptable care, according to government, will be taxed 2.5% of income.

    Sec. 59B, Pg. 170, Line 1 - Any NONRESIDENT alien is exempt from individual taxes. (Americans will pay for their health care.)

    Sec. 431, Pg. 195, Lines 1-3 - Officers and employees of Health care Administration (government) will have access to ALL Americans’ financial and personal records.

    Sec. 441, Pg. 203, Lines 14-15 - “The tax imposed under this section shall not be treated as tax.” Yes, it says that.

    Sec. 1121, Pg. 239, Lines 14-24 - The government will limit and reduce physician services for Medicaid. Seniors, low income and poor are the ones affected.

    Sec. 1121, Pg. 241, Lines 6-8 - Doctors, it does not matter what specialty you have; you’ll all be paid the same. “Service categories established under this paragraph shall apply without regard to the specialty of the physician furnishing the service.”

    Sec. 1122, Pg. 253, Lines 10-23 - The government “validates work relative value units” (sets value of doctor’s time), professional judgment, methods etc. (defining the value of humans).

    Sec. 1131, Pg. 265 - Government mandates and controls productivity for private Health care industries. “Incorporating Productivity Improvements into Market Basket Updates that Do Not Already Incorporate Such Improvements.”

    Sec. 1141, Pg. 268 - The government regulates rental and purchase of power-driven wheelchairs.

    Sec. 1145, Pg. 272 - Treatment of certain cancer hospitals: Cancer patients and their treatment are open to rationing!

    Sec. 1151, Pg. 280 - The government will penalize hospitals for what government deems preventable readmissions (incentives for hospital to not treat and release).

    Sec. 1151, Pg. 298, Lines 9-11 - Doctors, treat a patient during initial admission that results in a readmission and the government will penalize you for that action.

    Sec. 1156, Pg. 317, Lines 13-20 - “PROHIBITION on physician ownership or Investment.” Government tells doctors what/how much they can own.

  10. Gravatar for Steve Sisko

    Part 2

    Sec. 1156, Pg. 317-318, Lines 21-25, 1-3 - “PROHIBITION on Expansion of Facility Capacity.” The government will mandate that hospitals cannot expand (“number of operating rooms or beds”).

    Sec. 1156, Pg. 321, Lines 2-13 - Hospitals have opportunity to apply for exception BUT community input required.

    Sec. 1162, Pg. 335-339, Lines 16-25 - The government mandates establishment of outcome-based measures. Rationing.

    Sec. 1162, Pg. 341, Lines 3-9 - The government has authority to disqualify Medicare Advantage Plans (Part B), HMOs, etc. This will force people into a government plan.

    Sec. 1151, Pg. 298, Lines 9-11 - Doctors, treat a patient during initial admission that results in a readmission and the government will penalize you for that action.

    Sec. 1156, Pg. 317, Lines 13-20 - “PROHIBITION on physician ownership or Investment.” Government tells doctors what/how much they can own.

    Sec. 1156, Pg. 317-318, Lines 21-25, 1-3 - “PROHIBITION on Expansion of Facility Capacity.” The government will mandate that hospitals cannot expand (“number of operating rooms or beds”).

    Sec. 1156, Pg. 321, Lines 2-13 - Hospitals have opportunity to apply for exception BUT community input required.

    Sec. 1162, Pg. 335-339, Lines 16-25 - The government mandates establishment of outcome-based measures. Rationing.

    Sec. 1162, Pg. 341, Lines 3-9 - The government has authority to disqualify Medicare Advantage Plans (Part B), HMOs, etc. This will force people into a government plan.

    “The Secretary may determine not to identify a Medicare Advantage plan if the Secretary has identified deficiencies in the plan’s compliance with rules for such plans under this part.”

    Sec. 1177, Pg. 354 - Government will RESTRICT enrollment of special needs people! “Extension of Authority of Special Needs Plans to Restrict Enrollment.”

    Sec. 1191, Pg. 379 - Government creates more bureaucracy – “Telehealth Advisory Committee.” Health care by phone or the Internet – dial 1 for your health care advice?

    Sec. 1233, Pg. 425, Lines 4-12 - Government mandates Advance (Death) Care Planning consultation. Think Senior Citizens and end of life. END-OF-LIFE COUNSELING. SOME IN THE ADMINISTRATION HAVE ALREADY DISCUSSED RATIONING HEALTH CARE FOR THE ELDERLY.

    Sec. 1233, Pg. 425, Lines 17-19 - Government WILL instruct and consult regarding living wills and durable powers of attorney. Mandatory end-of-life planning!

    Sec. 1233, Pg. 425-426, Lines 22-25, 1-3 - Government provides approved list of end-of-life resources, guiding you in death.

    Sec. 1233, Pg. 427, Lines 15-24 - Government mandates program for orders for life-sustaining treatment (i.e. end of life). The government has a say in how your life ends.

    Sec. 1233, Pg. 429, Lines 1-9 - An “advanced care planning consult” will be used as patient’s health deteriorates.

    Sec. 1233, Pg. 429, Lines 10-12 - “Advanced Care Consultation” may include an ORDER for end-of-life plans - from the government.

    Sec. 1233, Pg. 429, Lines 13-25 - The government will specify which Doctors (professional authority under state law includes Nurse Practitioners or Physician’s Assistants) can write an end-of-life order.

    Sec. 1233, Pg. 430, Lines 11-15 - The government will decide what level of treatment you will have at end of life, according to preset methods (not individually decided).

    Sec. 1302, Pg. 468, Lines 16-21 - “Community-Based Home Medical Services means a nonprofit community-based or state-based organization

    Sec. 1411, Pg. 524, Lines 18-22 - Establishes the “Comparative Effectiveness Research Trust Fund.” More taxes for ALL.

    Sec. 1441, Pg. 621, Lines 20-25 - The government will define “NEW Quality” measures in HC. Since when does government know about quality?

    Sec. 1442, Pg. 622, Lines 2-9 - To pay for the Quality Standards, government will transfer money from “qualified entities” (government Trust Funds) to other government Trust Funds. More Taxes.

    Sec. 1411, Pg. 524, Lines 18-22 - Establishes the “Comparative Effectiveness Research Trust Fund.” More taxes for ALL.

    Sec. 1441, Pg. 621, Lines 20-25 - The government will define “NEW Quality” measures in HC. Since when does government know about quality?

    Sec. 1442, Pg. 622, Lines 2-9 - To pay for the Quality Standards, government will transfer money from “qualified entities” (government Trust Funds) to other government Trust Funds. More Taxes.

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