Longtime political operative Eric O’Keefe has a new plan to undermine health reform. Called the “Health Care Compact,” the effort is a legally dubious campaign to enroll states in an interstate compact to take control of all federally funded health care programs. As reporter Stephanie Mencimer notes, the law would not only unravel the Affordable Care Act, but also major health programs like Medicare. The Compact, once approved by Congress, would allow states with Compact laws to use Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal health program funds any way they wish, with no “strings” attached, like reimbursing doctors at a fair rate or ensuring program money is spent on actual health services.
The Health Care Compact campaign started earlier this year, when O’Keefe’s new group donated $250,000 to a Tea Party Patriots convention for a kick-off event. However, ThinkProgress has found that the group isn’t only reaching out to Tea Party members; it’s deceptively recruiting Democrats as well. The “About us” section of “Democrats for the Health Care Compact,” a group affiliated with O’Keefe, lists three influential Republicans, and no actual Democrats, as members:
— “Democrats For Health Care Compact” Member Leo Linbeck III: Born into an elite Texas family, Linbeck is the head of Aquinas Companies, LLC, the Houston-area construction and building management company connected to the fortune of Linbeck’s grandfather. Currently acknowledged as one the major financiers of the Health Care Compact campaign, Linbeck was a George W. Bush donor and has provided funds to a recently formed Republican political action committee called Citizens PAC. Linbeck’s father, Leo Linbeck Jr., is a major Republican fundraiser who helped create the groups to reduce liability for corporations and drastically reduce taxes on upper income individuals.
— “Democrats For Health Care Compact” Member Eric O’Keefe: O’Keefe has made a career out of orchestrating anti-government front groups, some with no actual members. He has played a pivotal role in the U.S. Term Limits “movement” (bankrolled by the Koch brothers and investor Howie Rich), the Sam Adam Alliance (a Tea Party mobilization group and planning group), the Center for Competitive Politics, a group that filed briefs in support of the Citizens United decision, and a sprawling network of TABOR groups designed to cripple state governments. Recently, O’Keefe has gained attention for his role in the Wisconsin Americans for Prosperity network and the Wisconsin Club for Growth, two groups that have aggressively promoted the right-wing agenda of Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI). He is also a regular presenter at the secretive Koch brothers gatherings that have acted as fundraisers for Republican attack groups.
— “Democrats for Health Care Compact” Member Michael Barnhart: Barnhart is currently the head of the Sunshine Review, a libertarian nonprofit closely linked with O’Keefe’s Sam Adams Alliance and the GOP training organization called American Majority. Barnhart’s career makes for a strange Democrat: he began his career working for various Republican members of Congress, moving on to work a Republican lobbying firm and the Washington Times.
The trio of Republicans are playing doctor as well. A group called “Physicians for the Health Care Compact” lists only Leo Linbeck III, Eric O’Keefe, and Michael Barnhart as members, despite the fact none of them are physicians. The contact for the group, Meghan Tisinger, is a political operative working for the Franklin Center, a fake news site set up by O’Keefe and other Sam Adams Alliance political staffers. Tisinger doesn’t appear to be a doctor either.
It’s not clear if the fake Democrats’ site, registered in March of this year, or the fake physician site has attracted any actual Democrats or doctors yet. But the larger Health Care Compact campaign has caught fire with Republicans.
Last month, Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) was the latest to sign the measure into law. So far, Oklahoma, Georgia, and Missouri have already passed O’Keefe’s Health Care Compact law, and several other states may follow suit.