(1) Insurers Gave Chamber Over $86M to Defeat Healthcare Reform
Newly disclosed figures show the nation’s largest health insurance corporations funneled some $86.2 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to oppose healthcare reform last year. Companies including UnitedHealth and CIGNA provided the money through their main lobbying group, America’s Health Insurance Plans. The spending exceeded the group’s entire budget from the year before and accounted for 40 percent of the Chamber’s 2009 budget. The money was used to fund ads, polling and public events to stir opposition to the healthcare overhaul. An anonymous source confirmed to Bloomberg News that the money came from insurers because federal tax laws don’t require identification of donors. In a statement, the Center for Responsive Politics said, "Perhaps this key debate would have progressed differently if the true source of the chamber’s spending had been known at the time."
(2) Study: Lawmakers’ Personal Wealth Increased 16% in 2008
A new study shows members of Congress saw a boost in personal wealth as the U.S. economy suffered the worst of the economic recession. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, lawmakers’ personal wealth increased an average 16 percent between 2008 and 2009. The number of millionaires rose to 261, nearly half the total members of Congress. The median wealth of a House member topped $765,000, while the average for a senator was more than $2.3 million.
(3) GOP Blocks Paycheck Fairness Act in Senate[Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson was the only Democrat who voted with the Republicans.]
Republican senators have blocked a measure to fight wage discrimination against female workers. The Paycheck Fairness Act would increase enforcement of laws requiring equal pay for men and women. But on Wednesday, all Republican senators voted to prevent the bill from coming to a vote.
(4) FBI Meets with Google, Facebook in Wiretap Push
The Obama administration is intensifying a push to expand government wiretapping of online communications, including emails, Facebook postings and internet phone calls. The administration wants Congress to require immediate compliance with wiretap orders seeking government monitoring of encrypted messages sent over the internet. The New York Times reports FBI Director Robert Mueller met with top executives at several major Silicon Valley firms, including Google and Facebook, earlier this week. The White House proposals include a requirement that any services based overseas be routed communications through a U.S. server where they could be wiretapped.
Did someone say something about democracy?