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Critics: Co-ops Are Disguised Public Plan
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Critics: Co-ops Are Disguised Public Plan

BY Carrie Dann

Opponents of healthcare reform are aiming to kill a delicately negotiated compromise on a nonprofit insurance plan before its final version is released after the recess. Some conservative groups are instructing their members that nonprofit healthcare co-ops, first proposed by Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad, are synonymous with the government-administered public option opposed by Republicans. Conrad is among the "Gang of Six" healthcare negotiators on the Finance Committee, which has yet to release its draft. Organizations such as FreedomWorks, which is encouraging its members to participate in town hall meetings, has distributed talking points describing the co-op concept as a rebranding of Democratic aspirations to create a single-payer healthcare system. "Some are now referring to a "Co-Op" plan to continue hiding the actual details of this big government legislation," said a planning document distributed to FreedomWorks activists. In addition, a loose-knit group of conservative leaders circulated a memo last week describing the co-op proposal as "a stalking horse" for government-run healthcare insurance. Former Rep. David McIntosh, R-Ind., co-founder of the Federalist Society and one of the Republican activist leaders who signed the memo, said that Republicans are prepared to oppose any proposal that could be perceived as a step toward a public option. If the Finance draft has a strong co-op provision, "conservatives will say that will lead to government-run health care, and we will oppose it," said McIntosh. Conrad has sought to underscore key differences between the public option, favored by House Democrats, and the co-ops, which he argues will cut costs to consumers by operating as not-for-profit organizations. Under his plan, co-ops would receive federal seed money in the form of grants or loans, but the money would be limited and the co-ops would be required to become self-sustaining. They would be administered by an elected board. The idea is under fire from both sides of the aisle. Senate Finance Health Subcommittee Chairman John (Jay) Rockefeller, D-W.Va., a champion of the public plan, has challenged the effectiveness of independently operated cooperatives. Business groups such as the National Federation of Independent Business and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce oppose the public option in the House version but have yet to weigh in on the co-op proposal, citing the lack of details. The Chamber, which today launched a multimillion-dollar ad campaign to oppose Obama's plan, last week urged the Finance Committee to complete bipartisan negotiations. Several business lobbyists said the proposal could offer an acceptable compromise if the co-ops are subject to the same regulatory hurdles as private insurers and do not enjoy preferential treatment from federal decision-makers. But many conservatives remain wary that Democrats will mold any compromise to tilt the playing field in favor of the co-ops, driving private insurers out of the market and rendering the remaining nonprofit healthcare networks unwieldy and inefficient. A spokeswoman for Americans for Prosperity, another group dispatching activists to town hall meetings, said her group sees the co-op proposal, the public option and various mandate proposals as different names for the same thing: an increased government role in how healthcare decisions are made. FreedomWorks policy director Max Pappas said that Conrad's co-op idea would create a system akin to the government-chartered mortgage giants that imploded. "This has the potential to do to health care what Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac did to housing," he said.

08/13/2009
Oregon Nixes Tobacco Tax Hike For Children's Health Care
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Newspaper Article

Oregon Nixes Tobacco Tax Hike For Children's Health Care

BY Jeff Mapes

A record amount of advertising underwritten by the tobacco industry overwhelmed supporters of expanding health coverage to children in Oregon Tuesday, as voters rejected an 84.5-cent-a-pack increase in cigarette taxes. The resounding defeat for the tobacco tax -- which lost 60-40 percent -- in a predominantly Democratic state is a boost for an industry that is pressing Republicans to hang firm in the congressional debate over the State Children's Health Insurance Program. Democratic attempts to expand SCHIP are funded with a proposed 61-cent-per-pack increase in the federal cigarette tax, which would bring the federal tax total to $1 per pack. "You'll be hearing about it everywhere," predicted Stanton Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, and a longtime foe of the tobacco companies.

11/07/2007
Opposing Sides Sending Lobbyists Into Battle On Capitol Hill
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Opposing Sides Sending Lobbyists Into Battle On Capitol Hill

BY Mark Wegner

Even without consensus on Capitol Hill regarding what changes might be politically feasible, lobbyists taking part in the business blitz on Social Security this week are encouraging senators to marshal their concerns about the retirement program into legislative action. Larry Burton, the Business Roundtable's executive director, is one of at least two dozen business lobbyists who are engaged in reaching out this week to all 100 senators.

04/28/2005
Privacy Interests Debate Credit-Reporting Law
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Privacy Interests Debate Credit-Reporting Law

BY Drew Clark

Congress should not permit a law governing credit reporting to expire at the end of the year because of the law's strong consumer benefits, three federal and state financial-services regulators told a congressional panel on Wednesday. But those regulators -- from the Federal Reserve Bank, National Association of Insurance Commissioners and Conference of State Bank Supervisors -- were challenged by Julie Brill, assistant attorney general of Vermont, who said Congress should let the law lapse. Brill, who is co-chairwoman of the privacy working group of the National Association of Attorneys General, said the current credit-granting system is not uniform and that states like Vermont with stricter pre-existing laws have not suffered because of them. Brill found a receptive ear among Democrats on the House Financial Services Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee in the second of a series of hearings on the Fair Credit Reporting Act. "Sometimes this discussion sounds a little Orwellian to me," said Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee ranking member Bernard Sanders, I-Vt. "The people who say they trust the states to do the best job" change their mind when businesses say federal pre-emption of tougher state laws is necessary. When subcommittee Chairman Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., questioned Brill's stance in light of Federal Reserve Chairman Greenspan's support for the extension, Sanders interjected, "In Vermont, some of us do, occasionally, dispute Chairman Greenspan." The industry and broader business communities are mounting a major lobbying push this year to extend the FCRA pre-emption Congress enacted in 1996. Business groups worry that failure to reauthorize the extensions would lop a full percentage point off the gross domestic product and limit consumers' ability to get quick loan decisions. But privacy and consumer advocates say that states need to fight for stricter privacy laws and that the 1996 act may have spurred an increase in identity theft. Howard Beales, director of the FTC's Consumer Protection Bureau, said on Wednesday that the agency's five commissioners have no official position. But a solid majority of those who testified on Wednesday urged extending the pre-emption. They represented groups such as the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Allstate, the National Multi-Housing Counsel, Citizens for a Sound Economy and the major credit-bureau companies. Opponents included the U.S. Public Research Interest Group and National Fair Housing Alliance, and a trial attorney with the National Association of Consumer Advocates. Congress should not permit a law governing credit reporting to expire at the end of the year because of the law's strong consumer benefits, three federal and state financial-services regulators told a congressional panel on Wednesday. But those regulators -- from the Federal Reserve Bank, National Association of Insurance Commissioners and Conference of State Bank Supervisors -- were challenged by Julie Brill, assistant attorney general of Vermont, who said Congress should let the law lapse. Brill, who is co-chairwoman of the privacy working group of the National Association of Attorneys General, said the current credit-granting system is not uniform and that states like Vermont with stricter pre-existing laws have not suffered because of them. Brill found a receptive ear among Democrats on the House Financial Services Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee in the second of a series of hearings on the Fair Credit Reporting Act. "Sometimes this discussion sounds a little Orwellian to me," said Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee ranking member Bernard Sanders, I-Vt. "The people who say they trust the states to do the best job" change their mind when businesses say federal pre-emption of tougher state laws is necessary. When subcommittee Chairman Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., questioned Brill's stance in light of Federal Reserve Chairman Greenspan's support for the extension, Sanders interjected, "In Vermont, some of us do, occasionally, dispute Chairman Greenspan." The industry and broader business communities are mounting a major lobbying push this year to extend the FCRA pre-emption Congress enacted in 1996. Business groups worry that failure to reauthorize the extensions would lop a full percentage point off the gross domestic product and limit consumers' ability to get quick loan decisions. But privacy and consumer advocates say that states need to fight for stricter privacy laws and that the 1996 act may have spurred an increase in identity theft. Howard Beales, director of the FTC's Consumer Protection Bureau, said on Wednesday that the agency's five commissioners have no official position. But a solid majority of those who testified on Wednesday urged extending the pre-emption. They represented groups such as the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Allstate, the National Multi-Housing Counsel, Citizens for a Sound Economy and the major credit-bureau companies. Opponents included the U.S. Public Research Interest Group and National Fair Housing Alliance, and a trial attorney with the National Association of Consumer Advocates.

07/05/2003
Getting On Board
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Getting On Board

BY Charlie Mitchell

"You're either with us or you're against us." The Bush administration has delivered that message to the Europeans, the United Nations and -- even more successfully -- to the K Street community, where the issue is not war and peace but tax cuts, specifically dividend tax cuts. House Ways and Means Chairman Thomas is ready to introduce President Bush's economic growth bill this week, and industry groups are lining up like small, Eastern European countries to pledge their support to the president. "The wind is turning to the back of the dividend proposal, from having a very strong wind in its face," said Dirk Van Dongen, president of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors and a leader of the Tax Relief Coalition. "The administration has made it abundantly clear that this is the cornerstone of the package -- it's not designed to deflect blows from other parts of the package." There is no shortage of talk about the "add-ons" that various trade associations would like the Ways and Means Committee to attach to the bill later this month, including accelerated depreciation proposals tailored to a variety of industries. But discussion -- at least open discussion -- of chipping away at the $388 billion set aside for dividend relief to fund other tax cuts has "ebbed," in the words of GOP lobbyist Ed Gillespie. "Remember," said Ken Kies of the Federal Policy Group, "the 2001 [tax-cut] bill as enacted was pretty much the president's proposal. Politically, he's in a stronger position than he was two year ago -- I don't expect the administration to show much flexibility in terms of what they see as the right way to do this." Business groups are anxious to demonstrate what they have been doing to push the Bush plan forward. The TRC this week is circulating a memo to its thousand-plus member companies and trade groups highlighting recent grassroots and media efforts by Citizens for a Sound Economy, the Business Roundtable, the Securities Industry Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Edison Electric Institute, the American Forest and Paper Association and the Seniors Coalition. The TRC recently formed a Committee on Dividend Benefits, headed by BRT president John Castellani and CSE president Paul Beckner, which meets every Thursday, includes over 40 members and has its own Web site (www.trcdividendbenefits.org). The TRC is beginning a run of print ads trumpeting the dividend plan this week, and the BRT will begin its own ad run next week, according to Castellani. "From the BRT standpoint, any economic growth package should restore consumer confidence and restore investor confidence," Castellani told CongressDaily. "From our members' perspective, [the Bush approach] is the best way to do it." Beckner said CSE contacted 40 House members and about 18 senators over the Presidents' Day recess in support of the proposal. "A fairly broad cross section of the business community is working to make dividends a viable part of the package," he said. Separately, Gillespie has put together what he calls a coalition of the "dividend faithful" -- about 30 companies that already pay out dividends and are "true believers" in the plan. "We're working in tandem with the TRC, on a parallel track," Gillespie said. "We're working on lobbying strategy, grassroots and sharing targets." Meanwhile, the loyal opposition has its doubts about the sincerity of some of the president's allies. "I think they're being good soldiers," said Roger Hickey of the liberal Campaign for America's Future (www.ourfuture.org), which is helping to organize grassroots opposition to the president's proposal. "The business community is falling in line and lobbying for their president, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of energy there. I question how much in resources they'll put into it." Hickey's group -- a charter member of the Fair Taxes Coalition, which includes several hundred public interest groups and labor unions -- is churning out e-mails to activists throughout the country, as well as holding events in state capitals to dramatize the state-by-state impacts of the Bush plan. For instance, Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., joined the community group ACORN in Minneapolis recently to release a report claiming the proposal would worsen Minnesota's budget crisis by $110 million and cost the state jobs over the next decade. The Fair Taxes Coalition is targeting the usual list of Senate moderates, "grabbing senators in their state while also fighting here in Washington," Hickey said. Right now, it is a shoestring operation, but Hickey said the opposition will make itself heard in the coming months with the help of the unions and some wealthy benefactors. "This is a coalition that doesn't have a lot of money, but when things heat up, money does tend to become available," he noted.

02/26/2003
Business Groups Begin New Effort On Dividend Taxation
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Business Groups Begin New Effort On Dividend Taxation

Top business groups are launching a new effort to secure passage of President Bush's plan to eliminate individual taxation on dividends. The Tax Relief Coalition, the Business Roundtable and Citizens for a Sound Economy will co-chair the new TRC Committee for Dividend Benefits. The dividend proposal is the centerpiece of President Bush's $695 billion economic growth package. But the plan has drawn questions even from moderate lawmakers of both parties, who are concerned about the overall price tag of the package. The new TRC committee held its first meeting today. The committee plans an extensive effort that will include public outreach, the generation of economic studies, forums for discussing the dividend plan, and advertising, according to a statement released by the TRC. "The TRC will fight very hard for dividend reform," said U.S. Chamber of Commerce vice president Bruce Josten. The TRC is comprised of leading business associations, including the Chamber, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, and the National Restaurant Association.

02/06/2003
U.S., Singapore Wrap Up Free-Trade Deal
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U.S., Singapore Wrap Up Free-Trade Deal

The Bush administration announced Wednesday it had cleared away the last hurdle to a free-trade agreement with Singapore, wrapping up the deal a month after a similar one with Chile, the Associated Press reported. Administration officials said a final round of telephone negotiations between Treasury Undersecretary John Taylor and Koh Yong Guan, managing director of Singapore's monetary authority, resolved the lone sticking point: treatment of capital flows during periods of financial crises. Under the deal, Singapore may impose capital controls if it deems them necessary, but U.S. investors may file claims to recoup any investments trapped in Singapore. The administration hopes to use agreements with Chile, Singapore and other countries to give momentum to the negotiations on even bigger prizes: a deal covering all countries except Cuba in the Western Hemisphere, and new global trade talks covering the 144 nations in the World Trade Organization. The deal with Singapore would wipe out tariffs and other trade barriers on about $33 billion in merchandise trade between the two nations. It also would give U.S. banks and service companies more access to one of Asia's main financial centers. Meanwhile, President Bush, who has tried to lure organized labor into the Republicans' political camp, Wednesday named Teamsters' President James Hoffa to an administration advisory panel on trade. Bush also named Paul Beckner, president of Citizens for a Sound Economy, a group that advocates lower taxes and less government, to a two-year term on the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations.

01/16/2003
U.S., Singapore Wrap Up Free-Trade Deal
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U.S., Singapore Wrap Up Free-Trade Deal

The Bush administration announced Wednesday it had cleared away the last hurdle to a free-trade agreement with Singapore, wrapping up the deal a month after a similar one with Chile, the Associated Press reported. Administration officials said a final round of telephone negotiations between Treasury Undersecretary John Taylor and Koh Yong Guan, managing director of Singapore's monetary authority, resolved the lone sticking point: treatment of capital flows during periods of financial crises. Under the deal, Singapore may impose capital controls if it deems them necessary, but U.S. investors may file claims to recoup any investments trapped in Singapore. The administration hopes to use agreements with Chile, Singapore and other countries to give momentum to the negotiations on even bigger prizes: a deal covering all countries except Cuba in the Western Hemisphere, and new global trade talks covering the 144 nations in the World Trade Organization. The deal with Singapore would wipe out tariffs and other trade barriers on about $33 billion in merchandise trade between the two nations. It also would give U.S. banks and service companies more access to one of Asia's main financial centers. Meanwhile, President Bush, who has tried to lure organized labor into the Republicans' political camp, Wednesday named Teamsters' President James Hoffa to an administration advisory panel on trade. Bush also named Paul Beckner, president of Citizens for a Sound Economy, a group that advocates lower taxes and less government, to a two-year term on the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations.

01/16/2003
Interest Groups To Influence Social Security Debate In Targeted
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Interest Groups To Influence Social Security Debate In Targeted

BY Mark Wegner

Races As congressional candidates and party committees trade blows over so-called Social Security privatization - and who allegedly favors it - a number of outside groups are jumping into the election-year fray. One business-backed coalition hopes to influence the Social Security debate with a multi-million-dollar ad campaign in 20 competitive congressional races. Derrick Max, executive director of the Coalition for the Modernization and Protection of America's Social Security, also known as COMPASS, said his nonpartisan group has "about $6 [million] to $8 million in the pipeline" for ads that promote Social Security "modernization." COMPASS' membership includes the Business Roundtable, National Association of Manufacturers and Citizens for a Sound Economy. The group has sent out two mailers and deployed grassroots organizers and will begin airing ads in October in 20 unannounced districts. Max said the ads would not mention a candidate's name but would constructively promote the idea of individual accounts. "Republicans, some of them want to push it off the table," Max said. Of Democrats, he said: "I've seen ads that say [GOP opponents] are anti-senior. Neither seems to be a good public-policy debate." House Democrats and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have declared they will make Social Security privatization a key issue this fall. House Republicans have countered by polling and researching responses to the attacks. Saying the ad misrepresented the voting record of GOP Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, the National Republican Congressional Committee successfully persuaded West Virginia broadcasters to pull DCCC ads. National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare's Executive Vice President Max Richtman said his group opposes privatization and is working to clarify where candidates stand on the issue. "In some of these races, the definition of 'privatization' has been manipulated by candidates, so you don't know where people are on these issues," Richtman said. The committee previously backed candidates with independent-expenditure radio campaigns, direct mail and postcards. The group has liberal leanings, but Richtman said the campaign has endorsed and contributed to Republicans, such as Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-Texas, a Democratic target for defeat this cycle. Campaign for America's Future Co-Director Roger Hickey said his group plans to spend a modest amount compared to other groups, but has asserted its clout this election cycle by challenging candidates to sign a pledge to oppose "privatizing Social Security, partially or totally." Hickey, whose campaign includes organized labor and civil rights groups, said some candidates and organizations have muddied the definition of "privatization." In the New Jersey Senate race, he said GOP businessman Doug Forrester has signed a pledge with "wiggle room" on the issue to blunt criticism by Democratic Sen. Robert Torricelli. "He didn't sign our pledge, but he cooked up his own pledge," Hickey said. Andrew Biggs, a Social Security analyst with the libertarian Cato Institute, said privatization was a "catch-all" term used at Cato but never referred to specific legislation. Once Democrats criticized it, Republicans looked for other terminology to describe proposals that divert a portion of an employee's payroll tax to personal accounts. "The reason you had the switch is that the opponents of reform, generally the Democrats, said that privatization was shutting down the system," Biggs said. Jim Martin, president of the conservative-leaning 60 Plus Association, said attacks on Republicans over Social Security are a perennial Democratic campaign tactic that is growing less effective. "It's a lot like crying wolf," Martin said "It's not working like it used to." AARP, at odds with the 60 Plus Association on the issue, is preparing to run a print ad and a television ad this fall to stir debate in the fall election. The group opposes changing the Social Security's funding mechanism and contends that diverting even a portion of the payroll tax would create a "carve-out" for Social Security. AARP Advocacy Director Chris Hansen said the television ad, set to run Oct. 18 in major media markets, would not refer to specific candidates or races. "We want to have a thoughtful, responsible debate on this subject," Hansen said. "We don't want to scare people, but we do want it on their radar screen."

09/24/2002
Senate Dems, Conservative Groups Clash Over Energy
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Senate Dems, Conservative Groups Clash Over Energy

Senate Democrats and national conservative groups are tugging energy conferees in opposite directions on several so-called green provisions included in the Senate version of energy legislation now before a House-Senate conference. In a letter sent to conference committee members Friday, six conservative groups told lawmakers that the Senate's language on global climate change and a renewable portfolio standard should be "deal breakers." Specifically, the groups targeted provisions to create a national greenhouse gas database, require power plants to generate a portion of their electricity from renewable sources, require the Commerce Department to produce climate change vulnerability assessments and ask the White House to develop a strategy for stabilizing greenhouse gases. Together, the sections would "make U.S. energy supplies less abundant, less affordable and less reliable," according to the groups, which included Citizens for a Sound Economy, National Taxpayers Union, Small Business Survival Committee, Americans for Tax Reform, Consumer Alert and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. The bill should not become a "vehicle for anti-energy policies that penalize consumers, seniors, taxpayers and the economy," they wrote. Also last week, Senate Democrats released a fact sheet that defended those and other environmentally friendly provisions included in their bill. Overall, the bill would "address the long-term need to increase domestic energy supplies while promoting greater energy efficiency through the use of new clean technologies," according to a fact sheet compiled by the Democratic Policy Committee. Specifically, Democrats said their bill combines climate change mitigation with "common sense" strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reliance on traditional fossil fuels, such as a requirement that utilities generate 10 percent of their power from renewable sources. House and Senate energy conferees will resume discussions of the bill soon after returning to Capitol Hill from the August recess. Conferees will tackle the toughest energy issues beginning in the third week of September. House Energy and Commerce Chairman Tauzin, the chairman of the negotiations, hopes to wrap up work by October. - by Brody Mullins

08/22/2002