The Sunday New York Times piece on Tom Daschle’s corporate takeover of Obamacare is a Petrie dish of Beltway self-interest and conflict of interest.
Daschle, former South Dakota senator and Senate Democratic leader turned lobbyist, would now be Barack Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services except the White House couldn’t reach that far into the health industry’s pocket to pull Daschle out.
Regardless, Daschle “still speaks frequently to the president” while continuing to make millions at D.C. lobbying firm Alston & Bird (which represents hospital, pharmaceutical, and other healthcare clients) by, well, staying in the health industry’s pocket.
But, according to the Times:
Friends and associates of Mr. Daschle say the interests of Alston & Bird’s clients have no influence on his views. They say he sees no conflict in advising private clients on the one hand and advising the White House on the other, because he offers the same assessment to everyone
Indeed, Daschle told the Times, “I do not tailor my views to any specific group or client.”
Translation: I tailor my views to all of them.
As for Daschle’s potential conflicts, the Times report said this:
Mr. Daschle is not registered as a lobbyist and recently told U.S. News and World Report that he preferred to describe himself as a “resource” to those in government and industry.
“I’d like to be a resource to my former colleagues, to the extent that I can, to the administration, to the stakeholders and to people interested in just kind of knowing how this is all going to play out,” he said. “I am most comfortable with the word resource.”
Me, I’m most comfortable with the word grifter.
Throughout its report, the Times acts not only as a Daschle enabler, but an unindicted co-conspirator. Witness this capitulation:
Some of the health overhaul bills would make deep cuts in Medicare payments for home health services, but Mr. Daschle has instead argued for an increase. And though he does not lobby, he took that message to Capitol Hill last month, giving a paid speech at a meeting for Congressional staff convened by a group of home health care equipment concerns.
Hey Times editors, why not just say “And though he is exclusively a resource . . .”
Adding to the Six Degrees of Tom Daschle effect, there’s this in the Times piece:
White House officials say they appreciate his help. “He is one of a number of people that provides outside advice to the White House, and the president greatly appreciates that advice and Tom’s friendship,” said Dan Pfeiffer, a spokesman for the White House who previously worked for Mr. Daschle.
Geez – at this point, why doesn’t the Times just let Daschle write the damn piece himself?