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Inside Story on Town Hall Riots: Right-Wing Shock Troops Do Corporate America’s Dirty Work
Posted on Aug 10, 2009
By Adele M. Stan, AlterNet
Although Beck’s stated goal is to bring America back to where it was on Sept. 12, 2001—a nation pulled together in the wake of the terrorist attacks the day before—he draws together only those who embrace the goals of the right.
But his project site is shaped like a social-networking tool, and activists in Florida credit the Tampa 9-12 chapter as turning them out to a town hall they helped turn into a ruckus.
Put these three scenarios together, and you have the phenomenon that has become the summer of the town-hall scuff, a heated season of right-wing disruptions of civic fora.
Add to that an oppressed-white-people narrative that has its roots in the origins of what used to be called the New Right, and you have a confluence of interests ready to elevate to prime-time status a disgruntled and paranoid minority with a penchant for misplaced blame.
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In Washington’s K Street corridor, Dick Armey is a very important man—so important, in fact, that he was scooped up, upon his retirement from Congress, by the lobbying firm DLA Piper.
It’s been widely reported that Piper lobbies on behalf of health-care industry interests, including Bristol-Myers Squibb, but its top health-care-industry client, according to OpenSecrets.org, is The Medicines Co., a small, below-the-radar firm that has paid Armey’s lobbying firm nearly $2.4 million since the beginning of 2008—nearly 15 percent of DLA Piper’s overall lobbying income for the period.
I called The Medicines Co., requesting an interview with someone on staff who could spell out the company’s position on the pending health care bills, and I got back a rather empty, generic statement via e-mail from the company’s public relations firm, FD:
I sent an e-mail back, asking for the company’s position on the health-care bills what it spent $2.4 million to lobby for, and received no response by press time.
The Medicines Co. operates so below the radar that it is not even listed as a member on the Web site of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturer’s Association (PhRMA), which opposes the House bill because it empowers a non-elected panel of experts to oversee cost-containment in public programs.
PhRMA also claims the House plan will raise premiums on senior citizens enrolled in the Medicare prescription drug plan, a plan, as currently construed, largely seen as a giveaway to the pharmaceutical companies.
Last year, The Medicines Co. saw net earnings on its major product, the anti-coagulant Angiomax, increase 17 percent over the course of a single year.
Because of The Medicines Co.‘s tight lips, we may never know whether it feels it’s getting its $2.4 million worth out of Piper, or its senior policy analyst, Armey, in his effort to derail health care through the FreedomWorks astroturf site.
Go to the site, and you’ll find a Health Care Action Kit (PDF), complete with talking points and Armey’s "ObamaCare translator" of key terms in the health care discussion, laced with Armey’s own witticisms. There’s even a mock "ObamaCare insurance card" (PDF) you can print out and pass around at town halls. It promises, among other things on a bulletted list, "Rationed health care" and "Anxiety, pain, risk of death."
At the risk of mixing messages (a big public-relations no-no), Armey also advises health-care protesters to raise their opposition to the energy-reform provision called "cap and trade" in the health-care town halls.
Coincidentally, DLA Piper’s lobbying portfolio includes a number of oil and energy companies.
Then, there are the actual members of FreedomWorks, who leave the most enlightening comments on the Web site:
This, from Constantine Ivanov:
Or, this, from Joe Massana:
If an entity providing 15 percent of the lobbying income at Armey’s day job took objection to any of this, do you think Armey would be overseeing the FreedomWorks outfit?
DLA Piper also earned $300,000 since early last year lobbying on behalf of the American Council of Life Insurers, which opposes the long-term care provisions in the House bill, which it sees as competition.
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