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Sen. Dianne Feinstein Benefits From Health Care Lobbyists After Dismissing a Single-Payer System

A woman holds a sign directed at Sen. Dianne Feinstein during a demonstration outside a Feinstein Q&A in San Francisco in February. (Screen shot via CBS SF/Bay Area)

A woman holds a sign directed at Sen. Dianne Feinstein during a demonstration outside a Feinstein Q&A in San Francisco in February. (Screen shot via CBS SF/Bay Area)

Sen. Dianne Feinstein is one of many Democrats up for re-election in the 2018 midterms, in what will be the California lawmaker’s fifth race for the U.S. Senate. It seems many progressive Californians are starting to distance themselves from Feinstein, in part due to her position on health care.

Last month, Feinstein held a town hall event in San Francisco that left many of her supporters fuming. Why? The longtime senator told the crowd: “If single-payer health care is going to mean the complete takeover by the government of all health care, I am not there.”

And just a week later, Feinstein held a lunch benefit to fundraise for her 2018 Senate race. The fundraiser was hosted by Avenue Solutions, a health care industry and pharmaceutical company lobbying firm.

MapLight, in partnership with International Business Times, reports:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein told her constituents at a recent San Francisco town hall event that she’s not ready to support a single-payer health care system — an idea that has been gaining steam at the state level in California. …

A week later, Feinstein was even further from there, benefiting from a fundraising event at the Washington, D.C., office of Avenue Solutions, a lobbying firm that represents major health insurers, pharmaceutical companies and the primary trade association for doctors. The industries have historically opposed efforts to create a universal, government-run health care system — an idea supported by 58 percent of U.S. adults. Feinstein supporters at the event were expected to kick in $1,000 to $5,000 for her re-election bid.

A Feinstein spokesperson did not respond to MapLight’s request for comment. …

Feinstein’s campaign committee received $655,822 in donations between January and March. Lobbyists accounted for at least $20,700; political action committees gave more than $160,000. Her campaign saw substantial support from the health care industry during that time.

Recent donors to Feinstein include former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who lobbies for Blue Cross Blue Shield Association; Brian Griffin, who represents the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA); and Fred Graefe, who lobbies for the Federation of American Hospitals. She also received donations from political action committees run by PhRMA and pharmaceutical companies Merck & Co., Amgen, and AbbVie.

This news adds fuel to the fire of California progressives who are beginning to turn on Feinstein. As Larry N. Gerston recently wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle:

When first elected, Feinstein ran and behaved as a moderate Democrat, refusing to move closer to the liberal edge of the party. Such an attitude was acceptable then, but today Democrats in California tend to be much more liberal than Feinstein. She has particular exposure on environmental issues, where she has consistently favored the needs of California farmers over those who seek to minimize artificial redirection of water in ways that would harm endangered aquatic species. She also has been slow to criticize President Trump, who is scorned by the liberal Democratic community in California.

Simply put, Feinstein is now — and has been for several years — out of step with the core of the state’s Democratic Party.

The ideology of this growing “core” of progressives falls more in line with the platform espoused by Sen. Bernie Sanders during his 2016 presidential run. Organizations like Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats aim to harness these Democratic voters to transform the now-moderate Democratic Party.

“If somebody gives you a check for a tremendous amount of money, you’re going to look out for them,” Kyle Kulinski, a co-founder of the Justice Democrats, recently told Truthdig. “The Democratic Party is a shell of its former self. Get rid of the corporate money. We need to focus on the issues.”

Numerous Twitter users expressed their overall dissatisfaction with Feinstein and the Democratic Party as a whole upon learning of her big-pharma benefit.

“Feinstein please go back into the woods with Hillary,” one user wrote.

“Another bought & paid for [D]emocrat disregarding the needs of her constituents,” another user responded. “Time to retire her with a primary loss.”

Emma Niles
Assistant Editor
Emma Niles, an assistant editor at Truthdig, graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz, with a degree in political science. She has worked for the National Women’s Law Center and Ms. Magazine.…
Emma Niles

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