Everyone's Entangled With Industry, Inclouding Dean and Daschle

Today, the Republicans have begun to exact their revenge on PhRMA, accusing Democrats of coddling industry at the expense of taxpayers. Congressional Republicans noted that a coalition of pro-reform interests had hired AKPD Media -- the "A" stands for Axelrod, as in David Axelrod, who resigned from the firm when he joined the administration. The charge is a little tendentious so far as guilty associations go, but it's mostly background noise. Republicans have been motivated to adopt this line of attack because they're angry that PhRMA, long an ally, or at least neutral, seems to have capitulated to the White House and to Democrats. Indeed, the Republican charges mirror what many liberals say: that the administration has been too cozy with organized interests, like PhRMA and the insurance industry. Some of the entanglements are deeper.

Two high-profile quasi-independent backers of reform -- two Democratic shamans on the issue -- have direct financial ties to industry. Ex-Sen. Tom Daschle still has a senior adviser gig for the law/lobbying firm of Allston + Bird: to "consult" with industry about health reform legislation. His clients include United Health, the largest independent insurer. He insists he doesn't lobby. The distinction is immaterial. As Time Magazine's Michael Scherer noted, Daschle supports a public plan and is helping a client who opposes one.

Even as former DNC chairman Howard Dean leads a coalition in favor of the "public option," he retains his day job as a "senior strategic adviser" to the law/lobby firm McKenna, Long and Aldritch. He was hired in March. He has spoken out in favor of extending biological patents, acknowledging, half jokingly, that he was a "shill." (That position reflects his long-held belief -- and that of his employers. "My long-term belief is that in order to have a healthy, innovative industry, pharmaceutical or biotech industry, you have to allow them to make some money," he told an interviewer in July.)  Today, Democracy for America, run by Dean's brother, sent an e-mail in Howard Dean's name asking supporters to raise $200,000 for commercials supporting a public option.

As others have noted, many senior government officials dealing with health care have ties to the industry, including the White House health care czar, Nancy Ann DeParle.