We’ve been rather kind to Senator Charles (Chuck) Grassley in the past. Yes, he’s a right wing Republican with some really odious ideas, ideas for which he deserves to be criticized. But he’s also been a champion of the Federal False Claims Act which has encouraged and protected whistleblowers to reveal how corporations have taken the taxpayer for a ride, something for which he deserves credit. Lately he has been on a tear about the ways Big Pharma has been buying influence with high profile medical professionals, with the direct implication that this has skewed their practice, their research and their publications (example here), if not resulted in outright falsification and fraud. He may be right in a number of these cases. His method is to publicize that academic researchers publishing on particular drugs or medical devices also receive undisclosed or unpublicized consultant fees or grants from the companies whose drugs or devices they publish favorable research about. We agree with him this is a conflict of interest. It’s not illegal but it does violate ethical principles. And for Chuck Grassley, the principle is the main issue.
Or so he said last night on PBS’s NewsHour. So it is with regret that we have to call out Senator Grassley as an unprincipled, corrupt and duplicitous self-righteous charlatan. Did we forget “deranged and stupid sounding?” Grassley is the ranking Republican member (most seniority) of the Senate Finance Committee, who with Committee Chair Max Baucus (“Democrat”, MT) is working his little tail off to gut the attempt to bring private health insurers to heel and prevent their continued profiteering at the expense of the old and sick and just about everyone except for Senator Grassley and his colleagues who have excellent government run health care. I guess Chuck wants to keep that privilege for himself while publicly claiming it isn’t worth a farthing (so why doesn’t he give it up?). Take this piece of nonsense about his colleague, Ted Kennedy, who suffers from a brain tumor:
[E]arlier today during a radio interview with Iowa City?s KCJJ, Grassley steered the conversation with a caller toward rationing health care services among the elderly, one of the right wing?s favorite fearmongering tactics when it comes to health care reform. And as an example, Grassley cited Sen. Ted Kennedy?s (D-MA) brain tumor. Grassley said that in countries with government-run health care, Kennedy “would not get the care he gets here because of his age.” Instead, the government would decide to spend health care resources on younger people “who can contribute to the economy”:
GRASSLEY: In countries that have government-run health care, just to give you an example, I?ve been told that the brain tumor that Sen. Kennedy has ? because he?s 77 years old ? would not be treated the way it?s treated in the United States. In other words, he would not get the care he gets here because of his age. In other words, they?d say ?well he doesn?t have long to live even if he lived another four to five years.? They?d say ?well, we gotta spend money on people who can contribute more to economy.? It?s a little like people saying when somebody gets to be 85 their life is worth less than when they were 35 and you pull the tubes on them. (mcjoan, dKos)
Outside of the fact that what Grassley says is a lie and that both he and Kennedy actually have a government run health plan, Grassley has been going around claiming any competition from public health insurance would automatically lead to a government take-over of health care and put bureaucrats between patients and doctors. First, I wish he were right about the public option automatically leading to a single payer Canadian type system. It won’t. That’s too bad, because if you ask most Canadians they wouldn’t trade their system for ours. If a public option emerges at all after Senators Grassley and Baucus are through neutering it, it will be one that will help make private insurers rich by allowing them to dump all the high risk patients on the public plan and skim the cream from the rest. Just like they are doing now. That will wipe out the savings of the public plan and make private insurance all the more profitable. At least many more people will be covered that have no coverage now, although at a much greater cost than necessary.
This is all typical right wing, pro insurance industry crapola, but it’s not the main reason Grassley is a corrupt unprincipled hypocrite. The main reason can be summed up with this; What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander:
As the debate over health care reform legislation has heated up over the spring and summer months, the Senate Finance Committee has found itself at the center of the debate. Leading this debate has been the duo of Max Baucus, committee chair, and Chuck Grassley, committee ranking member. According to campaign finance records filed with the FEC, the duo raised $219,000 from health and insurance political action committees (PACs) from April to June of this year.
The majority of that money was raised by Sen. Grassley, who is up for reelection in 2010 and could face a Republican primary battle. During the height of the debate over health care, Grassley pulled in $165,100 from health and insurance PACs. At the same time, Grassley?s language turned from the cautious but open words about reform in 2008 to the abrasive Twitter rants of 2009.
The majority of the money to the two senators comes from health professionals and pharmaceutical companies. The biggest contributors include Aetna, American Academy of Family Physicians, National Health Underwriters and Healthsouth Corporation. (Paul Blumenthal, Sunlight Foundation)
So Chuck Grassley needs money and has changed his tune from a moderate right winger to a wingnut whackjob, coinciding with getting a lot of money from the health insurance industry. That looks corrupt, on its face. From the hypocrisy angle it’s just as bad. Because Grassley not only opines publicly on the subject (see below) but when he does he never discloses he’s taking millions ($2.7 million, give or take a few hundred thousand) from the people who will benefit from legislation he is shaping. Like the medical professionals he so self-righteously criticizes it’s not illegal. But it sure smells bad. Too bad there’s no Chuck Grassley in the Senate to stick it to Chuck Grassley.
Grassley is a Republican in a State (Iowa) where his party has been taken over by a radical fringe group of “birthers” (Obama was born in Kenya) and “deathers” (health reform means euthanasia for the elderly). Instead of being governed by principle, he is being governed by fear of the crazies in his own party:
Petrified of a challenge from radical right extremists back home, Grassley has moved further and further right over the last year. Once considered a mainstream conservative who could usually be counted on to put America first and not his party’s crazy power struggles and obstructionist strategies, he was widely expected to join other mainstream conservatives like his old friends Dick Lugar (R-IN) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) in voting to confirm Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Instead he ran for the microphones to pledge allegiance to a bizarre Rush Limbaugh/Ann Coulter/Glenn Beck brand of Republicanism. His last term is widely viewed in Iowa as an almost complete failure and if the Democrats field a strong challenger in 2010, it’s by no means a guarantee that Grassley will get another term.
Let’s hope Grassley is indeed finished in 2010. We’ve had enough of corrupt politicians on the take. Did we forget “deranged and stupid sounding”?
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