Since Democrats secured 60 votes to pass health care reform legislation — and passage became inevitable — prominent conservatives relaunched an under-the-radar campaign to invalidate reform through the legal system. On the eve of the final health care vote in the Senate, Sens. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and John Ensign (R-NV) invoked a “constitutional point of order” to allow the Senate to rule by majority vote on whether the “Democrat health care takeover bill” is unconstitutional.” Legislatures in approximately 14 states — organized by the American Legislative Exchange Council [ALEC], a “business-friendly conservative group that coordinates activity among statehouses — have also introduced initiatives to ratify constitutional amendments that would repeal all or parts of the pending health care reform legislation and Attorneys General in at least 13 states are challenging a deal secured by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) to fund Nebraska’s Medicaid expansion for perpetuity.
Yesterday, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), (along with two co-authors from the Family Research Council and the American Civil Union) penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal explaining “Why the Health-Care Bills Are Unconstitutional.” “The policy issues may be coming to an end, but the legal issues are certain to continue because key provisions of this dangerous legislation are unconstitutional,” they wrote, and went on to challenge the constitutionality of the individual mandate, the so-called sweet heart deal for Nebraska, and the requirements for states to establish health insurance exchanges and insurance regulations.
The effort may prove a strong political recruitment tool for conservative activists, but the legal reasoning has little support beyond the right edge of the Republican party — — and the health care industry. Several weeks ago, the New York Times reported that “The states where the [constitutional] amendment has been introduced are also places where the health care industry has spent heavily on political contributions.” The industry has also contributed heavily to the campaigns of at least 7 of the 13 attorneys general threatening to sue the federal government over the Nebraska provision. (Campaign finance data was not readily accessible for the other 6 attorneys general.)
An analysis conducted by the Wonk Room of available campaign finance disclosures for AGs from South Carolina, Washington, Michigan, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Utah and Idaho reveals that the health industry contributed heavily to their campaigns:
South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster ~ $15,000– Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina: $3,500- Columbia Clinic: $3,500- SC Healthcare PAC: $3,500- Commander Health: $2,500- Medco Health Solutions: $1,000- Skylyn Medical Associates PAC: $1,000- Bayer: $500
Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna ~ $24,645– GlaxoSmithCline: $3,200- Johnson & Johnson: $3,095- Bristol-Myers Squibb: $3,000- Premera Blue Cross: $2,800- Eli Lilly: $2,400- Amgen: $1,600- Regence Blue Shield: $1,600- Wyeth: $1,600- Pfizer: $1,250- PHRMA: $1,100- Astrazeneca: $1,500- MedcoHealth Solutions: $1,000- Bayer: $500
Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox ~ $12,600– Pfizer Michigan PAC: $6,100- Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan: $3,000- Aetna PAC: $2,500- United Health Group Inc PAC: $1,000
North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem ~ $20,700– Pfizer PAC: $10,000- GlaxoSmithKline PAC: $4,000- Purdue Pharmacy Pac: $2,650- Medco Health PAC: $1,750- Eli Lilly PAC: $1,000- Merck PAC: $1,000- Johnson & Johnson PAC: $300
Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett ~ $24,300– Pfizer PAC: $10,300- Eli Lilly and Company PAC: $5,000- Aetna Inc. PAC: $3,500- United Health Group Inc: $2,500- Blue Cross Voice PAC: $2,000 – Merck PAC: $500- Cigna Corporation PAC: $500
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff ~ $9,500– Selecthealth: $5,000- Pfizer PAC: $2,500- Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah: $2,000
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden ~ $10,100– PHRMA: $4,500- Idaho Life and Health Industry: $3,250- Caremark RX: $1000- Regence Blue Shield: $500- Pfizer: $450- Blue Cross of Idaho: $400