Crying Fowler: Top Drafter of ObamaCare Returns From Whence She Came

250px-Max_S_Baucus300px-Revolving_DoorWe have previously discussed the obscene relationship between industry and Congress with staffers and members pushing through key legislation and then being given lucrative positions by industry. The pharmaceutical and telecommunication industries are particularly notoriously for such revolving door arrangements. Other members lobby for these industries after leaving office and current officeholders like President Obama have accepted money from lobbyists (despite his pledge not to). Now the top staffer to Democratic Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus, who drafted Obamacare has reportedly accepted a prime position with Johnson & Johnson’s government affairs and policy group. Her name is Elizabeth Fowler and demonstrates that the Democrats are little better in this revolving door practice. Indeed, the ever revolving Fowler is an amazing example of how industry controls not just the drafting but much of the legislation in Congress.

As Glenn Greenwald reported, before joining Baucus’ office, Fowler was the Vice President for Public Policy and External Affairs at WellPoint, the nation’s largest health insurance provider. Before the stint at WellPoint, you guessed it, she worked as Baucus’ health care aide. So Fowler has not just used the revolving door, she has gone around and around. This did not appear to bother Baucus or the Democrats.

Despite decades of complaints about the revolving door, Fowler (shown below watching over her boss) is an example of how Congress has made sure that the practice would continue despite periodic protestations to the contrary.
fowler

Source: Glenn Greenwald

51 thoughts on “Crying Fowler: Top Drafter of ObamaCare Returns From Whence She Came

  1. Monsanto is another company that regularly places top people in key positions. Monsanto is the producer of Roundup and the seed that can grow in Roundup poisoned soil. GMO seeds are Monsanto gems that have led to nearly all corn, soy, and alfalfa being gmo contaminated. Throughout agricultural history, the farmer saves the best of the crop for next year’s seed. Not with Monsanto, once you buy Monsanto’s Roundup ready or gmo seeds, you have to continue to pay royalties or face a lawsuit. Farmers in India have been committing suicide b/c they can’t pay. A farmer in Canada was sued for no paying royalties for GMO seed b/c trucks passing his farm spread GMO seed and contaminated is crop. We’re now finding that GMO foods have a deleterious affect on human and animal health. Guess who’s in charge in the FDA of looking after farms and food. http://salem-news.com/articles/january302011/monsanto-fda-ms.php

  2. Would it be rude to demonize a whole category of individuals for feathering their nests, and pissing on an ethical approach to government, on the backs of the 99%?

  3. “Her name is Elizabeth Fowler and demonstrates that the Democrats are little better in this revolving door practice. Indeed, the ever revolving Fowler is an amazing example of how industry controls not just the drafting but much of the legislation in Congress.”

    I totally agree.

  4. Then there’s the influence of Donald Rumsfeld in getting the FDA to approve the use of aspartame as a food additive, which produces symptoms akin to Lupus, MS, and other neurological disorders. And Dick Cheney pushing the legislation to allow oil and gas companies to pollute our water supply. That’s one of the concerns about fracking, there is no reason for them to comply with the clean air and clean water regulation since they have been exempted.

    Then there’s the idea floating around that Susan Rice should be Secretary of State, the department that ultimately decides the fate of the XL pipeline. Rice is heavily invested in the pipeline. http://www.sunnewsnetwork.ca/sunnews/world/archives/2012/11/20121129-123019.html

  5. The war industry is the greatest revolving door. The others are pikers by comparison. Congress, media, oil, weapons … the revolver is the coin of the realm.

  6. A development most foul.

    One that is happening in every single government agency. I cannot think of one agency that is clean of Multinational corporate corruption. Not one.

  7. “Her name is Elizabeth Fowler and demonstrates that the Democrats are little better in this revolving door practice.” – JT

    I don’t think anyone that is moderately informed has claimed that the Ds are better/worse than the Rs at criticizing/supporting the ‘revolving door’ that gives corporations untold influence and access in state and federal gov’t. Its accepted practice. As Gene stated, the “corruption is systemic.”

  8. With all due respect to our outraged fellow bloggers, the only alternative to the revolving door is to pay government employees the equivalent wage that private industry offers for similar work.

    Anyone up for that cost?

  9. Make the choice binary by action of law. You can be a registered lobbyist or you can hold a public office, but one precludes doing the other. Ever.

  10. Mespo raises a point. However, with regard to certain higher eschalon employee it would seem reasonable to require certain restriction/ waiting periods on future employment, particularly where directly transferable knowledge is involved. I believe, but am not sure, that such restrictions apply in certain executive branch positions.

    The counter argument is that recruitment for the best and brightest would be hampered if folks couldn’t capitalize on their expertise, i.e., read influence and connections. I’d like to see the proof of that. It doesn’t seem much of a leap to create some restrictions on positions directly involved in crafting legislation related to certain industries and companies. Especially so for those folks, like Fowler, who have been through the revolving door several times.

    Comes down to whether one sees the role of Congress as doing the industry’s bidding, or the people’s.

  11. The staffers like Ms. Fowler are not elected officials. When you work on the hill and make $75,000 a year and K street comes calling, it is hard to say no.

  12. Gripin’s easy; fixin’s hard.

    How about we restrict lobbyists to a six year career for any one entity and not allow government employees to lobby until six years after their separation from government? Nothing magic about the number “6” except it’s the longest term of elected federal employees except judges.

  13. Academia, for starters, mespo. Corporate influence is not a prerequisite for gov’t positions. Drafting legislation does not require that one sit on the board of a company or make a 7 figure salary, especially when that legislation is a reaction to rising healthcare costs, which relates the public’s interest more than pharma and insurance industry’s interest(although I realize those industries are affected by such legislation).

    Also, regarding the ‘only alternative’ claim, there is no “similar work” in the private industry that is comparable to drafting the legislation that affects our lives like Obamacare or other healthcare legislation does. Private industry is not analogous to the work of representing the people of a nation.

  14. Mespo,
    you are correct that there is no support, especially on the Right to pay staffers salaries that would be enough to prevent them from jumping to lobbying companies. I think the only way to prevent this money influencing all aspects of our government is to mandate public financing for elections and, to limit current staffers from accepting any lobbying jobs for 4 years from the date of their separation from government. I don’t think that restriction would survive judicial review, but I would vote for it.

  15. Blind Faithiness:

    I would not want a panel of academics deciding on most anything unless they had experience in the business at hand. That’s like letting a Supreme Court justice try a case. I’ve seen it. It’s not pretty. And to disabuse you of the notion that academics are not in it for the cash as well, I point you to that other revolving door – the one that leads from the college classroom to the corporate office.

    As for your notion that “there is no “similar work” in the private industry that is comparable to drafting the legislation that affects our lives like Obamacare or other healthcare legislation does,” well it’s a tad wrong. Business writes policy all the time and it’s legislative affairs departments write public policy daily. Where do you think technical or just plain business friendly legislation comes from? Done some of that myself on rare occasion.

    There is no easy answer to this question as tons of academic papers have proven.

  16. There are easy answers, mespo. There isn’t the uncorrupted political will to implement them. Our current electoral and lobbying systems are self-perpetuating graft machines. The only way to get the leeches off the gravy train is to blow up the train.

  17. Absolutely. Reasonable conditions, freely entered into. If industry has non-compete contracts, surely Congress can come up with something.

    It should be understood that it’s a privilege to work in the people’s chambers, and not just another step on the financial ladder.

    Idealistic perhaps. Looking to Congress to lead the way in ethics might be understood by some as a joke.

  18. Gene H:

    ” There isn’t the uncorrupted political will to implement them.”

    ********************

    That’s what make the practical hard as compared to the normative. ;)

  19. @Gene: Make the choice binary by action of law. You can be a registered lobbyist or you can hold a public office, but one precludes doing the other. Ever.

    Although that is a valid solution, IMO it will also be ineffective. The rich and the corporations can still reward politicians for their “service” by giving them jobs that have nothing to do with lobbying. At the upper echelons of corporations and “charitable organizations” in America, there are no job descriptions, no specific duties, and no definition of whether people are doing their job. Although my consulting work always involved actual work, I have also seen people being paid for “confidential advisory” services, “ambassadorial public relations” services, “review” services, etc.

    This is true even in the non-political sense; in one hospital where I was a consultant, a new CEO was himself a consultant, and had to be let out of an employment contract he had with a hospital services firm. They graciously let him go, no strings attached, and the week after he took office the board was informed that he had contracted his former employer, for $150,000, to do a “survey of work practices” in the hospital, to look for problems and to orient him to our organization. That consisted of a polite woman with an all-access badge walking around the hospital with a clipboard for one week asking people what their jobs entailed.

    I believe the function of the lobbyist position is just to reward the prior services of the politicians, appointees, and government employees. The industry does it to prove to existing office holders that they do reward those “on their side” when they are ready to leave office. But they could just as easily prove their good faith without hiring former office-holders as lobbyists, and the big salaried former pols can still hang out with sitting politicians without lobbying for anything. Let lobbyists do that; the former pol just needs to show off his wealth, have a lunch and play a few holes of golf or talk about football. Just catching up with old friends; while mentioning his employer XYZ, and how great his do-nothing job is.

    The sitting politician, if he is inclined toward that Nirvana, will figure out on his own that the next day, when the XYZ lobbyist comes a-knocking, that he suddenly has time to talk.

  20. I agree you can work on the Hill or you can work for a corporation over whom you have regulatory power or draft legislation that will have an impact on their business. People say they go into public service to help but they really go into public service so they can use every connection and everything they have learned on our dime to benefit corporations who steal from is everyday. This limitation should apply to staffers and congress members a like.

  21. Tony,

    Then combine my proposal blended with raff’s and mespo’s:

    Make the choice binary by action of law. You can be a registered lobbyist or you can hold a public office, but one precludes doing the other. Ever. In conjunction, mandate public financing for elections and, to limit current staffers from accepting any lobbying jobs for 6 years from the date of their separation from government.

  22. mespo,

    Corruption can be fixed intra-systemically (the preferred method) or extra-systemically (think Dr. Guillotine). But it needs to be fixed before society reaches a tipping point. Dysfunction ultimately kills governments and puts society at the risks incurred by revolutionary action. History tells us this time and again. The cost of inaction is too high.

  23. so who, in any position of power, given that this is hardly a secret….is doing anything about blatant conflict of interest in these situations? Because the black hats have no problem reshaping heaven and earth by implementing hell on the rest of us…who, and what is even trying to stop them?

  24. who and what is trying to stop them?

    Occupy Everything.

    Anonymous

    Wikileaks

    The banks took their funding, the police beat them like slaves, the Occupy Sandy group that saved thousands & was deemed to be more help than both FEMA and the Red Cross? Surely there was some support from those on high?

    They held a Sandy benefit concert last night sponsored by Chase (among others) No one, not ONE presenter or host was allowed to say the name “Occupy Sandy”.

    Not an honorable mention, nothing, they got jack, nada, zero credit at a huge public benefit for Sandy victims.

  25. @Gene: I do not think that solves the problem either, like I said the $500K a year job they get the day after their done-with-public-office party can be to practice their golf game. Adjunct public relations advisor. Employee morale officer. Chief Strategy Monitor. Special Advisor to the Board.

    One way to fix the problem would be to limit their after-office income level, in order to keep the quid from meeting the quo. But I do not see that happening, either.

    The problem we have is, indeed, one of law. We all know there is a quid pro quo going on, but when dealing with reasonably intelligent people (unlike Blagojevich) there does not need to EVER be an explicit statement of it. The intelligent politician will immediately and loudly eject anybody that gets explicit (just in case it is a trap being recorded); and the smart lobbyist will never make an explicit offer. What we have is something we cannot prosecute, an understanding developed by a long string of observable examples. Harry Reid is one; he never makes money as anything but a politician, but ends up a multi-millionaire, the man with a golden touch to earn money without working in what we believe is one sweetheart real estate deal after another, but nothing can ever be proven.

    John McCain is another: How lucky do you have to be to own the very piece of junk land the telephone company wants to lease for a cell phone tower? Lucky enough to win a Senate seat, I guess.

    Lobbyist pay is just one symptom you can quash, but another symptom will pop up to take its place. The problem is post-service payoffs, this suitably-delayed quid pro immediate quo, by the Fight Club rule number one, you never speak of Fight Club.

  26. And the argument against what Tony says will be, “If you don’t pay em a half million a year we won’t get the best of the best in the jobs.” That claim will be made as if we aren’t aware that the so-called “best of the best” are in the process of gaming the entire nation for profit and power. Salary is not the yardstick we should use to gauge performance, especially in the ring of public service.

    “Way to go Brownie”

  27. mespo727272 1, December 13, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    With all due respect to our outraged fellow bloggers, the only alternative to the revolving door is to pay government employees the equivalent wage that private industry offers for similar work.

    Anyone up for that cost?
    ====================================================
    If the alternative (service for the public good, i.e., sacrificial service in terms of remuneration) is no longer a reality in American government, then perhaps we have descended into a realm where other measures mentioned by “our outraged fellow bloggers” is appropriate.

    In either case, we seem to have agreed that lucre runs the world, and thus wherever the most of the lucre is happens to also be where the seat of government will be it would seem.

    Gives new meaning to “government purse strings” doesn’t it?

  28. Can we stop calling politicians Public Servants.

    I nominate that phrase as the Oxymoron of human civilization.
    However calling Priests Gods Servants may be equally as Oxymoronic.

  29. Talk about a two tiered justice system. I’m just waiting for Elizabeth Warren, whom I voted for, to stand up tall regarding HSBC banking travesty.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/12/hsbc-prosecution-fine-money-laundering

    Over the last year, federal investigators found that one of the world’s largest banks, HSBC, spent years committing serious crimes, involving money laundering for terrorists; “facilitat[ing] money laundering by Mexican drug cartels”; and “mov[ing] tainted money for Saudi banks tied to terrorist groups”. Those investigations uncovered substantial evidence “that senior bank officials were complicit in the illegal activity.” As but one example, “an HSBC executive at one point argued that the bank should continue working with the Saudi Al Rajhi bank, which has supported Al Qaeda.”

    No sweat. We can all hold our breath. Warren won’t let this travesty slide.

  30. Shano, You beat me to it! So here’s another one

    HSBC isn’t the only one.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/15/financial-fraud-prosecution_n_1095933.html

    excerpt:
    Public mistrust for banks may be at an all-time high, but federal prosecution for certain financial crimes is down to a 20-year low.

    The federal government is on track to file just 1,365 prosecutions for financial institution fraud in fiscal year 2011, according to a new report from a watchdog group. That would be the lowest number of such prosecutions in at least two decades.

    The report, from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, comes at a time when the protest movement known as Occupy Wall Street has gained nationwide visibility — and no small degree of public support — by criticizing what its members see as a close relationship between big banks and the federal government.

    The falling number of fraud prosecutions is striking given what many claim is a strong pattern of financial-sector misconduct in recent years, culminating in a housing crisis characterized by alleged rampant mortgage fraud and improper foreclosure, as well as the weakening of the national and global economy.

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