The Plum Line’s Greg Sargent has confirmed that CNN contributor Alex Castellanos’ political consulting firm, National Media, is the ad buyer for the insurance industry group America’s Health Insurance Plan’s (AHIP) new ad blitz attacking Democratic health reform plans.
Not only does he fashion himself as the “father of the modern attack ad,” but Castellanos is also the father of the Republican approach to health reform. In July, Castellanos wrote a memo for the GOP leadership on how to kill health reform. The memo emphasized the use of buzzwords to characterize Democratic plans — like “risky” and “experiment” — but most importantly defined the ultimate goal: “If we slow this sausage-making process down, we can defeat it.” Additionally, according to the FEC website, the Republican Party has been paying Castellanos’ firm for media work. Starting on July 23rd, Castellanos received four payments totaling $434,336 from the Republican National Committee.
Since Castellanos is being paid by both the private health insurance industry and the Republican Party, why has the network given him a platform to attack President Obama’s plans to overhaul the healthcare system? Here’s a look at some recent comments made by Castellanos about health reform while appearing on CNN:
CASTELLANOS: The Republicans actually have a very different approach than the Democrats do, but it’s very concrete. Instead of a big gamble, this one [... ] I believe the insurance industry supports that. Obama and Republican — President Obama put that on the table. If he put tort reform, if he put portability, if he put shopping across state lines, he could put together a package right now and Republicans would stand with him 100 percent. [CNN, 9/30/09]
CASTELLANOS: Democrats are not signing on to this huge, expensive trillion-dollar experiment. [...] That, one, this is a huge experiment with health care. You know, President Obama has spent really, his family, more time picking the family dog than they have crafting this health care plan that’s going to transform 20 percent of the — of our economy and your health care forever. [CNN, 7/22/09]
CASTELLANOS: The more people learn about [Obama's] health care plan, the less they seem to like it. [CNN, 7/23/09]
A network spokeswoman has confirmed that CNN will soon clarify the conflict of interest Castellanos has in regards to AHIP. However, CNN should note that he has been paid by the RNC, and if he is to continue opining on the health debate, disclosure should be made during every segment in which he appears. Indeed, the policy of full disclosure should extend to other CNN pundits, including Frank Donatelli, a GOP lobbyist who represents Blue Cross Blue Shield.