Obama got $20mil from healthcare industry in 2008, 3x what McCain got

One more data point on Obama and the ACA (the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare) story before we move on.

Via this comment (thanks Bill_Perdue) from our previous post on the subject — “Unions say Obama betrayed them on ACA rollout” — we have a dollar amount on the money received by Obama in 2008, just ahead of his 2009 rollout of the ACA, later called “Obamacare,” his signature health insurance proposal.

The amount paid by the health industry to Obama campaign coffers? $20,000,000. Twenty million big ones, in words.

Here’s Raw Story with the story (my emphasis throughout):

Obama received $20 million from healthcare industry in 2008 campaign

While some sunlight has been shed on the hefty sums shoveled into congressional campaign coffers in an effort to influence the Democrats’ massive healthcare bill, little attention has been focused on the far larger sums received by President Barack Obama while he was a candidate in 2008.

A new figure, based on an exclusive analysis created for Raw Story by the Center for Responsive Politics, shows that President Obama received a staggering $20,175,303 from the healthcare industry during the 2008 election cycle, nearly three times the amount of his presidential rival John McCain. McCain took in $7,758,289, the Center found.

The new figure, obtained by Raw Story through an independent custom research request performed by the Center for Responsive Politics — a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that tracks money in politics — is the most comprehensive breakdown yet available of healthcare industry contributions to Obama during the 2008 election cycle.

While the headline number is pretty interesting, the article goes on to articulate why. It was written in 2010, after the dollar amount became available, but also after the effect of that money became visible. That effect — the ACA itself.

First, look at the breadth of sub-industries who donated:

Cabaret: "Money makes the world go around"

Corporations have needs too

Health professionals — $11.7 million
Health services/HMOs — $1.4 million
Hospitals/nursing homes — $3.3 million
Pharmaceuticals/health products — $2.1 million
Miscellaneous — $860,411 

The Center’s best estimate of health insurance donation (not included above) is $712,317, but that number looks way low to me, especially considering how things played out.

Did Obama seek those donations based on a policy “preview”?

The usual explanation for these big corporate donations is a variant of “covering their bases” with a prospective winner. This makes the campaign donations essentially a defensive “play,” to borrow Wall Street investor slang. Raw Story:

[W]hen you look at it just on its own merit … Obama definitely has a relationship with the health sector,” Dave Levinthal [the Center’s communication director] told Raw Story. “When you raise $20 million from one group, obviously they’ve curried some favor with you and you have a lot of people in that sector who support you. … People want to be able to curry favor with those who are in power,” he added. “And one way to do that is by making donations to candidates and officials who are represented by the party in power. Or who look like they’re going to win.”

That’s certainly one way to look at it — pre-emptive bribery, or the pay-first plan for access to the new government’s shell-like ear. 

But that street has two entrances. What if Team Yes We Can already knew they were going to “go big” on health care reform — which quickly devolved into “health insurance” reform — before election day? Could they not have gone around to this same industry and asked for the donations, based on some wink-wink heads-up on the 2009 health push?

Notice that the change from pre-election “health care” reform to just “health insurance” reform post-election preserved the profits of the actual health-care industries, whose pricing power would go untouched, while at the same time it hugely boosted the profits of the health-insurance companies, who would end up with a zillion new customers, thanks to the mandate and a neutered public option.

From Norm Solomon, quoted in the article:

We don’t hear so much now about ‘healthcare reform. We’re hearing a lot more about ‘health insurance reform.’ And that is absolutely in large measure driven by the White House. … The funding from the healthcare industry to the Obama campaign, in retrospect, was not misplaced. It appears, based on policy, that those funders are getting what they would’ve hoped for. …

Whichever you believe, the pre-emptive bribery explanation or the pre-election preview of policy explanation, the results were the same.

Did post-election Obama tank single-payer, after pre-election Obama praised it?

And then there’s this, from Solomon again:

Let me put it this way. Single-payer advocates literally couldn’t get into the White House. And you have [chief pharmaceutical industry lobbyist and former Republican congressman] Billy Tauzin and Big Pharma and all of these in-depth strategy meetings in the White House in mid-2009 cutting deals.

We’ve heard that before, right? That Obama praised single payer before entering office, and tanked it afterward. Let’s test that, see if there are more sources for the allegation.

First, pre-election Obama, speaking in 2003 as a U.S. Senate candidate:

“I happen to be a proponent of a single payer universal health care program.” (applause) “I see no reason why the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, spending 14 percent of its Gross National Product on health care cannot provide basic health insurance to everybody. … A single payer health care plan, a universal health care plan. And that’s what I’d like to see.

But as all of you know, we may not get there immediately. Because first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate, and we have to take back the House.”

Interestingly, he was speaking to a union audience, the AFL-CIO. Did they buy it? Yes they did.

Now let’s look at post-election Obama. These two pieces (as well as the union link above) come to us from a recent article in PandoDaily by David Sirota, who quotes other sources. I’ll present both quotes, and let you draw your own conclusions. The first is a statement made to NPR’s Morning Edition in June 2009 by Kathleen Sebelius:

Sebelius: Single-Payer Health Care Not In Plans

As lawmakers on Capitol Hill hammer out legislation to overhaul the nation’s health care system this year, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says that a single-payer option is not on the table. …

Asked if the administration’s program will be drafted specifically to prevent it from evolving into a single-payer plan, Sebelius says: “I think that’s very much the case, and again, if you want anybody to convince people of that, talk to the single-payer proponents who are furious that the single-payer idea is not part of the discussion.”

That seems telling. Then there’s the story that ex-Montana governor Brian Sweitzer told to MSNBC. Here’s MSNBC’s version:

In August 2009, the president traveled to Montana to deliver a speech touting health care reform. His efforts to transform the health care system were then under siege from the tea party movement, which warned of a European-style “government takeover” of health care and spread myths of federal “death panels” to execute the infirm. So Schweitzer raised a few eyebrows when he introduced Obama by declaring his [Sweitzer’s] unabashed love for Canada’s government-run health care program.

[Sweitzer speaking] “Did you know that, just 300 miles north of here, did you know they offered universal health care 62 years ago?” he said. He praised Tommy Douglas, father of the country’s health program, who, he noted, was named in a TV poll the greatest Canadian in history – nine spots ahead of Wayne Gretzky.

Minutes later, the president used his own speech to declare, “I’m not in favor of a Canadian system, I’m not in favor of a British system, I’m not in favor of a French system. What we’ve said is, let’s find a uniquely American system.”…

After the speeches were over, Obama sat Schweitzer down for a private talk. According to Schweitzer, the president said his voice wasn’t helping the health care debate and asked him to step away.

According to another report of the same 2009 event, we find this:

Obama said the majority of people in America get health insurance through their employers, and “we want to build on that. For us to completely change that, it would be too disruptive,” he continued. “Max (Baucus) and I agree, that [single payer is] not the right way to go.”

Max Baucus’s role, and the role of Jim Messina, Baucus’ former aide and Obama’s 2012 campaign manager, is detailed here. It’s not a pretty story.

This is likely not new to many of you, but I wanted to fill in the picture before leaving the subject. All sorts of groups are having problems with the reality of ACA, just as many others are very glad for the improvement in their lives and finances. Whatever your own “on balance” conclusion though, there can be no doubt now what “health insurance reform” was designed to do. And those big campaign contributions, whoever initiated them, tell a big part of the tale.


To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius

Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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43 Responses to “Obama got $20mil from healthcare industry in 2008, 3x what McCain got”

  1. Bill_Perdue says:


    Single payer was taken off the table by Obama, who was elected president with a $20 million dollar bribe and who held a couple of dozen meetings with the heads of insurance and pharmaceutical companies and tried to suppress news about them. What happened in those meeting was a criminal deal that turned health care reform into a boondoggle (1) for the rich.

    Lieberman did not run the WH, Obama does and he didn’t run Congress. Reid and Pelosi did at that time and most of the Congress was in on the fix.

    “To navigate the process of health reform, President Obama turned to his chief of staff,
    Rahm Emanuel, a consummate deal maker, who helped stock the West Wing with an
    all-star lineup of congressional insiders. … The administration’s hopes for reform rested with Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the powerful head of the Senate Finance Committee, who also happened to be one of the Senate’s top recipients of special interest money from the health care industry.The White House encouraged Baucus to quietly negotiate deals with the insurance lobby, drug companies and other special interest groups, despite promises to run a different kind of White House. But the deals were often controversial. FRONTLINE investigates how, near the start of the health care reform process, Baucus and the White House negotiated a secret $80 billion deal with Billy Tauzin, the former Louisiana congressman who had become the pharmaceutical industry’s top lobbyist.

    “People who thought that the pharmaceutical industry was still reaping profits that were excessive were unhappy with that deal and were particularly unhappy that it got
    cut behind closed doors,” says the co-chair of Obama’s transition team, John Podesta.”http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/obamasdeal/etc/synopsis.html

    Hillarycare is just as bad as Romney/.Obamacare. We need socialized medicine. Nothing else will do.

    (1) boondoggle – a government project of little practical value funded to gain political favor

  2. Bill_Perdue says:

    They don’t just give money to buy goodwill, they bribe candidates and later they bribe the winners they way the bribe the Clintons, with huge speakers fees, book advances and the like. It’s criminal activity that socialists will end by confiscating the wealth of the rich.

  3. BloggerDave says:

    Well, uselessbot… One thing I don’t do is make fun of people who have been helped by the ACA…

  4. BloggerDave says:

    That’s pretty much all you’re good for…. Go back to sleep until it’s time to pat Gaius Anonymous on the back again…

  5. karmanot says:

    And what do you do besides troll?

  6. karmanot says:


  7. caphillprof says:

    I think the deals are in advance and signed in blood. These guys rig the deal before making any investment. They are risk adverse (as are our politicians). I think it’s a myth that corporate folk donate on a wing and a prayer.

  8. BloggerDave says:

    LOL… Getting started, uselessbot? With what? Complaining and insulting people and NEVER getting off your azz to actually DO something?

  9. BloggerDave says:

    But that would mean actually DOING something… All these people can do is moan and complain from their couches…

  10. BloggerDave says:

    Millions of people who wanted to purchase health insurance but weren’t even allowed to do that, now can… That means a lot to those people even if it means absolutely nothing to you, Gaius Anonymous…

  11. Bubbles says:

    A second class something is better than a first class nothing.

    We all know Ted Kennedy’s regrets over Nixon and healthcare – the second class something he turned down for the first class nothing we all got.

    I think the above posting shows clearly, away from political realities, Obama favored a single payer universal system, but political realities lead him to a second class system that we have today.

    But, finally, at least we have that.

    Do you want a first class system?

    Then I suggest joining movements for eliminating corporate personhood and for public campaign financing.

    To imagine the miracle of us having our current system, I need merely point at the legislation for universal background checks on gun purchases. After Sandy Hook shooting 90% of the public favor it, including gun owners. Yet it failed because 1% with big pockets favored not having those back ground checks.

    This nation is firmly in the control of Big Money/Corporations/1%. Only by coopting some favorable corporate interests was any healthcare reform possible, and that’s still the case.

    When campaigns become subject only to public campaign financing, then, and only then will politicians do the publics business. Otherwise, he who pays the piper calls the tune.

  12. Ford Prefect says:

    Hey, who wrote the bill that ALLOWED the GOPers to do that in the first place?

  13. Abby says:

    Yes, and yippee, so good to hear.

  14. Abby says:

    And earned every penny.

  15. jomicur says:

    *rather than spouting nonsense like “Democrats are the same as Republicans”*

    So now we start inventing quotes and putting them in the mouths of people who disagree with us, eh? You harebrained Obamabots have been getting more and more desperate to defend your messiah, and it shows more and more clearly every time you post. What’s coming next? Are we going to get the “ten-dimensional chess” rubbish, the claim that all of Barry’s critics are Republican moles, or what? Keep it up. I won’t have to take my sleeping pill tonight.

  16. karmanot says:

    Been there done that: Noah’s Arc. (except all the animals are Republicans and Clintonista Obots) :-)

  17. karmanot says:

    Hash Brownie is having an hallucination.

  18. karmanot says:


  19. karmanot says:

    “—-affordable health care, no pre-existing condition exclusions, no caps on what an insurance company will pay out” We are not quibbling about that as well you know, assuming you are intelligent to understand that the problem lies in turning over by legal mandate compulsory participation in the complex of private insurance, without cost controls,

  20. karmanot says:

    Keep laughing. It’s always fun to watch your personal Obot train wreck.

  21. karmanot says:

    “you, apparently, have a short attention span.” You apparently have forgotten that Obama Care was invented by the Heritage Foundation and called Romney Care until Uncle Kolob went down in flames.

  22. karmanot says:

    Quite aside from your usual histrionics sister, I couldn’t agree more about a single payer system. As for your perception of my ‘overblown invective’ I was only getting started and rather modestly at that. Stick around Obot, there’s more in the pipeline.

  23. judybrowni says:

    All about me?

    No, apparently, it’s all about you.

    Funny how you’re the one ignoring the 17,000 Americans who will die unnecessarily in Republican states without Medicaid expansion, and the millions who now have healthcare under Obamacare.

    I’m not fine, and never have been, with Social Security and Medicare cuts: and it’s thanks to pressure from progressive Democratic politicians and Democrats like me those horrific plans seem to be on hold.

    However, rather than spouting nonsense like “Democrats are the same as Republicans” (and Republicans haven’t proposed those self same cuts? ho ho ho) or that Obama is somehow the Anti-Christ, I’m a realist.

    Don’t vote Democratic, and see what you get: Republicans. And Democrats who act like Republicans.

    Vote for more, and better, Democrats, and that’s what you’ll get.

  24. jomicur says:

    Yeah, you’re right. The only issue here is YOU and what YOU got. (Actually, it’s what you and the insurance corporations got, but never mind that.) And the people who’ve lost coverage or seen their premiums go up under Obamacare? You’re just fine with that, because it didn’t happen to YOU, right?

    I’m on Social Security and Medicare, and your brave hero Obama has said repeatedly that he’s open to cutting both. Given the chance, he’ll do so, just like his avowed hero Reagan would have if he’d had the chance. But, yeah, he’s a champion of the poor and the working class. And if he cuts the benefits I and millions of others rely on, that’s fine with people like you, because, um, the Republicans are worse, or something. Right. Got it.

  25. judybrowni says:

    Well, Obama also gave me and millions of Americans 94% of what we wanted, and didn’t have: affordable health care, no pre-existing condition exclusions, no caps on what an insurance company will pay out, and so on and so forth.

    Those were and are life and death issues for millions of Americans, you’re pretty damn callous if you can blow off that off.

    I have two words for you: Medicaid Expansion.

    Republicans versus Democrats: who will be killing more of the poor and working poor on those two words alone.?

  26. jomicur says:

    Yeah, I’m the one with a short attention span. I’m the one who’s forgotten Boehner’s boast that Obama has given the GOP 94% of what they’ve wanted. Yep, that was me, all right. LOL again!

  27. judybrowni says:

    Well, Republicans were much worse and continue to be: you, apparently, have a short attention span.

  28. judybrowni says:

    Except…I now have affordable health care at 63, after going for 5 years without any, because I’d previously run through my life savings with a prolonged illness and $1,000 a month premiums.

    And my brother has affordable health care at 60, after 4 scary years without it.

    Compared to my friend Trudy, a single mother who died young two years before Obamacare, and left behind her motherless 14 year old daughter for no other reasons than the gaps Obamacare has closed: pre-existing conditions, caps on insurance company payouts, etc.

    So, yeah, maybe Obama is the anti-Christ according to you, but Obamacare is still saving lives and families from medical bankruptcy.

    I personally know of a dozen more people who now have affordable health care, when they had none previously.

    So maybe instead of invective, you might want to channel your energies into forcing the political system into fighting for single payer, a path somewhat easier now that the dread Obamacare is in place.

  29. karmanot says:

    Well done Gaius! We knew that Obama betrayed us with the slimy aid of Lieberman and Baccus, but the details you lay out still stun the reputation of Obozo, who is merely a clever placeholder in a tradition of corruption and perfidy. First black President or no, he lacks even a particle of greatness or the slightest concern for the citizens who voted him into office. One would have to go back to The Robber Baron Era to find a more talented grifter.

  30. 4th Turning says:

    Have attempted to “follow the money” ever since “follow the money” became cliche.,
    The path appears to go in circles ending up with corporations now equal with us ordinary
    voter blokes. In the interest of inclusiveness and diversity will post the following.


    Overall procurement spending will rise by nearly 8 percent in the 2011 budget, covering virtually all of the equipment the services wanted. Historically, the costs to operate and maintain the U.S. military tend to grow at about 2.5 percent. Not this year. The basic defense budget request seeks more than $200 billion, or an 8.5 percent increase, in funding for Operations and Maintenance.
    Over the past three decades, the military tool also has become the leading instrument of American statecraft. The defense budget is 13 times larger than all U.S. civilian foreign policy budgets combined, and the Defense Department’s share of U.S. security assistance has grown from 6 percent in 2002 to more than 50 percent in 2009, when Obama was inaugurated.
    There are more members of the military in marching bands than there are Foreign Service Officers, and the Defense Department spends more on fuel ($16 billion) than the State Department spends on operating costs ($13 billion). More than half of U.S. discretionary spending is in the defense budget, and war spending only accounts for half of the increase in defense spending since 1998.

  31. HolyMoly says:

    The longer the hoi polloi are made to believe global warming is a hoax, the more resources the wealthy can hoard for themselves. If there was at this time a genuine consensus among the public, all those resources would go towards helping ALL of us deal with the problem, leaving less for the wealthy to take.

    But I digress. I know the topic was healthcare donations to Obama, but it would seem to me that that is just one of many symptoms of what ails us.

  32. nicho says:

    And let’s not forget that the Bush family has bought 100,000 acres of land in Paraguay. I wonder why.

  33. Ford Prefect says:

    The GOP is pissed off because the Dems stole their fund-raising vehicle from them. All that corporate money that went to Obama and the Dems that could have gone their way. It’s big money. As for poor people dying, thousands of poor people will still be killed off due to the fact Obamacare didn’t nationalize Medicare and left it in the hands of states that refused to expand it.

    Both parties have flushed those lives down the toilet, for their own self-satisfaction/enrichment.

  34. HolyMoly says:

    Maybe not a villa in France. There’s a new city being planned by and for the world’s wealthy in Africa. I forget which country. But it’s going to be built on higher ground, with a protective wall (to keep the global-warming-is-a-hoax water from flooding the place).

  35. HolyMoly says:

    There definitely had to be more than $700K coming from the insurance industry. Obama went from “I won’t accept a healthcare bill that DOESN’T include a public option” to letting the public option be practically the first thing to go, if it was ever truly there in the first place.

    Abortion laws have been discussed and decided upon for decades now by all-male or mostly-male legislative bodies on both the state and federal level. Healthcare laws are now being discussed and decided upon by the 100%-fully-insured-for-life (ultra-premium, pie-in-the-sky coverage). The fate of Medicare and Social Security have been discussed for the past decade and will someday be decided upon by those receiving a lifetime pension roughly equivalent to their current salary, plus the fact that most if not all of them are already millionaires.

    I think there MIGHT just be a pattern emerging here. Just maybe.

  36. quax says:

    Nice work, excellent article demonstrating how the game is played.

  37. MyrddinWilt says:

    I see the data showing health professionals backing Obama, the insurers not so much. The doctors probably backed Obama because they understood the system was broken and on the verge of collapse and Obama was the only candidate with a plan to fix it.

    Single payer was taken off the table by Joe Lieberman who refused to back any plan that included it. Buying sanctimonious Joe was much cheaper than buying the White House.

    Obamacare is a rube goldberg contraption built on Republican party ideology. The Republicans hate it because they hate the idea of poor people getting medical care and they hate the fact that they have effectively named the national health system after a black man.

    So prospects are probably better than most credit for replacing it in four years time with HilaryCare. The Republican’s will still hate the fact that poor people aren’t dying for lack of medical care but taking that black guy’s name off the table might be enough to get some support. That and their prospects for 2020 being unlikely to look much better in 2016 than their 2016 prospects look today.

  38. politico says:

    Wealth brought Obama to the White House to do their dirty work much in the same way 17th and 18th century landowners brought slaves from Africa to toil for them. Simply put, Obama is nothing more than a little house slave for wealth and he could care less about anything else other than pleasing his masters.

  39. jomicur says:

    “But…but…but the Republican would have been so much worse!” LOL!

  40. cole3244 says:

    obama is as much of a corporate whore as any republican he just won’t admit it.

  41. nicho says:

    Until we get money out of politics, nothing will change.

  42. Indigo says:

    It leaves a bad taste but I think we knew it, if not in such specific detail. Considering how well the Obama’s are doing with the profiteering side of their business, it’s possible they’ve got a very nice villa in the south of France lined up for retirement. Who would blame them? Now that we’re a bona fide Banana Republic, our retired politicians should gather in the south of France with the other Banana Republicans. It’s only fair and entirely consistent with everyday Third World politics.

  43. S1AMER says:

    Businesses give to the candidates they think will be best for the bottom line. Some times, yea, there’s an up-front agreement on the quid pro quo but, usually, businesses simply do their due diligence and contribute to the candidate who they think will have policies that make money for them.

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