Obamacare Co-ops Use Tax Dollars To Lobby For More Tax Dollars

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RICHARD POLLOCK

Health Republic Insurance of New York paid K Street lobbyists to help it secure $90 million in federal “solvency funds,” allowing the Obamacare health insurance co-op to stay afloat last year, according to congressional lobbying disclosure records.

Quarterly documents obtained from the clerk of the United States Senate by the Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group show Health Republic paid $180,000 to the lobbying firm of Alston & Bird. The payments were made from early 2014 through the first quarter of this year.

Alston & Bird did not merely lobby Congress, according to the documents.  They also lobbied federal officials at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which manages Obamacare.

Health Republic last year asked CMS to provide an additional $90 million in “solvency funds” to the co-op.  CMS officials approved the request last September, five months after Alston & Bird began their lobbying of agency officials.

Health Republic originally received $265 million in start-up funding in 2012, making it the largest of two dozen health insurance co-ops established under an Obamacare program designed to provide publicly funded competition for private sector health insurance firms. Healthcare reform advocates said the co-ops would offer lower premiums for comparable coverage.

Obamacare health insurance co-ops in Colorado and Michigan also retained lobbyists to influence Congress and executive branch officials, according to Senate documents.

Heading up Health Republic’s Washington lobbying is former U.S. Rep. Earl Pomeroy, a nine-term North Dakota Democrat, who manages the K Street firm’s health care lobby shop.

Bob Siggins, a former long-time congressional staff aide for the congressman and once his chief-of-staff followed Pomeroy to join Alston & Bird.  Siggins also lobbies for Health Republic, according to the documents.IR

Pomeroy claimed his lobbying on behalf of the federally funded co-op was “completely appropriate” and that the lobbying firm continues the work on the co-op’s behalf.

Federal law forbids a recipient of federal funds “to pay any person for influencing or attempting to influence an officer or employee of any agency, a Member of Congress, an officer or employee of Congress, or an employee of a Member of Congress in connection with any federal action.”

CMS stated in its Dec, 13, 2011, final rule governing the co-ops that “no portion of the loans be used for propaganda purposes, attempts to influence legislation, or marketing.”

Federal rules also direct all co-ops to “to use any profits to lower premiums, improve benefits, or for other programs intended to improve the quality of health care delivered to its members.”

Obamacare co-ops like Health Republic rely almost exclusively on tax dollars.  The CMS awarded $2 billion to 24 proposed co-ops in 2012. The money was to be used for start-up costs and insurance capitalization.

Health Republic has filed its tax returns as a 501(c)(6) tax-exempt business league organization, but it and the other Obamacare co-ops also conform to the 501(c)(29) designation established specifically for them. Health Republic filed as a (c)(29) in 2011, but the IRS regulations for the (29) designation – which bar the co-ops from lobbying Congress – weren’t finalized until this year.

The (c)(6) designation permits lobbying, but the funds used for that purpose are not tax-deductible and may be subject to a special tax on the organization.

“If they rely 100% on federal taxpayer dollars, they are prohibited from using those funds to lobby agencies or members of Congress,” said Scott Amey, general counsel of the Project on Government Oversight, a non-profit government watchdog. “Lobbying cannot be paid for with taxpayer dollars.”

Aaron Albright, director of communications at CMS did not respond to repeated DCNF questions about the co-op lobbying.

The National Alliance of State Health CO-OPs, the Obamacare creation’s trade association, also did not respond to DCNF questions about the legality of co-op lobbying.

Many of the Obamacare co-ops have compiled less-than-stellar records, as was predicted by the White House Office of Management and Budget, which projected in 2010 that nearly half of the groups would fail.

The insurance commissioner in Vermont refused to license the Obamacare co-op there in 2013. And the Iowa-Nebraska co-op was dissolved under state receivership early this year.

Health Republic, however, claimed to be among the most successful Obamacare co-ops, capturing one-third of New York’s Obamacare exchange customers.

The co-op was founded by Sara Horowitz, a well-known liberal New York political activist who once worked with then-state senator Barack Obama at a New York think tank partly funded by billionaire George Soros.

Horowitz also was the only individual approved by CMS to launch Obamacare co-ops in three separate states. Her groups received $434 million from CMS to launch co-ops in New York, New Jersey and Oregon.

Despite the substantial federal funding, Health Republic executives discovered last year that they did not have enough capital on hand to meet New York’s capital reserve requirements.

Alston & Bird’s disclosure forms describe the firm’s lobbying of Congress and CMS on behalf of Health Republic for the solvency funds.

According to CMS officials, a request for solvency funds represents a co-op’s attempt to meet “state determined reserve requirements.”

If a co-op’s capital reserves are being depleted too quickly or fall rapidly to unacceptable levels set by insurance regulators, there may be a need for the additional funds.

It is unclear what went wrong at Health Republic last year.  However, Horowitz ran another non-profit health insurance company in New York called Freelancers Insurance, which she closed in 2014.

The New York Department of Financial Services ranked Freelancers among the poorest insurers in the state, placing 31st among 34 insurers in the number of complaints received by state officials in 2013, it’s last full year in operation. Freelancers also had the highest reversal rate for grievances filed by doctors, hospitals and other medical providers.

Thomas Miller, a health expert and resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute said Health Republic’s decision to hire a high-priced lobbying firm indicates “they were pulling out all of the stops.”

The request for solvency funds is “a warning sign not only that they’re having trouble right now but it’s a preview of what would be a continuing chronic future.”  He said, “they’re simply throwing more good money after bad.”

Consumer Mutual Insurance of Michigan reported paying $13,000 in lobbying fees to MJ Capitol Consulting.  The Michigan co-op received $71 million in CMS funding and also sought solvency funding but did not get it.

The Colorado Health Insurance Cooperative received $72 million from CMS and paid $20,000 this year to Thorn Run Partners for unspecified lobbying on “issues relating to CO-OPs.”

Spokesmen for the Colorado and Michigan co-ops did not respond to DCNF calls.

The Pentagon Admits They Are Preparing For a Mass Civil Breakdown in America

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BY JOHN HAWKINS

This is an old story that has recently resurfaced — and it does make you think. On the one hand, the Pentagon does need to be prepared for any contingency, including a breakdown of order in the country. On the other hand, it makes you wonder if the Pentagon knows something we don’t.

A new US Department of Defense (DoD) research program admits that the Pentagon has long been concerned about widespread social break down. Even more striking of an admission is the fact that they have been funding universities to create models of the dynamics, risks and tipping points that would all be part of large-scale civil unrest in the United States.

The DoD program was funded under the overarching authority of a number of US military agencies.

….This program, costing millions of dollars, has been designed for the purposes of immediate and long-term “warfighter-relevant insights” development. The Pentagon explains that the purpose is for senior officials and decision makers in “the defense policy community” to form a contingency plan in the event of wide scale social unrest.

The recently revealed documents add that the purpose is further to inform policy implemented by “combatant commands.”

This all started back in 2008 when the global banking crisis formed the impetus for the DoD “Minerva Research Initiative“.

The DoD then decided to partner with universities in order “to improve DoD’s basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral, and political forces that shape regions of the world of strategic importance to the US.”

One of the products of this was a Cornell University-led study which was managed by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research. It aimed to develop a model “of the dynamics of social movement mobilization and contagions.”

…This project is being managed by the US Army Research Office, and focuses on “large-scale movements involving more than 1,000 participants in enduring activity.” It will cover 58 countries in total.

The DoD’s Minerva Initiative funded a project last year as well, in order to determine “Who Does Not Become a Terrorist, and Why?”

It’s interesting that this started after the global banking crisis because the most likely source of a mass civil breakdown in America would be a debt-driven financial crisis. Let’s say America can’t pay the interest on its debt. Then afterwards, we couldn’t borrow any more money, which would mean that welfare, social security and Medicare checks could slow down, stop or be inflated into irrelevance.  Local law enforcement could be dramatically underfunded and the Left’s “The world owes you a living” mentality could come back to bite us in the behind. It’s not a pretty picture and if things started getting really far out of hand, yes, we might need the Pentagon to quell the violence.

FEDS COLLECT RECORD $472 BILLION IN TAXES IN JUST ONE MONTH …

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By Stephen Dinan – The Washington Times – Thursday, May 7, 2015

The federal government set a record tax haul in April, taking in nearly a half-trillion dollars in one month alone, according to Congressional Budget Office statistics released Thursday.

April is always a busy month with the tax deadline on April 15, but this year’s haul was historic, totaling $472 billion, far outstripping the previous monthly record, set last April, of $414 billion.

Spending, meanwhile, was a more modest $317 billion, leaving the government with a surplus for that one month of $155 billion — also a record.

Despite that good month, the government is likely to run a deficit when the entire fiscal year is taken into account. But it will probably be smaller than last year’s deficit, and will be the lowest since President Obama took office.

The good news surprised the budget counters at the CBO.

“Receipts for the first seven months of fiscal year 2015 totaled $1,892 billion, CBO estimates — $155 billion more than receipts in the same period last year. That increase is roughly $40 billion larger than what CBO expected when it published its March 2015 report,” the nonpartisan agency said in its report.

Both taxes and spending are growing rapidly, at 9 percent and 7 percent, respectively.

The CBO said the biggest spending increases are in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — the big entitlement programs that are essentially on autopilot, with costs increasing as more poor, disabled and elderly people become eligible. Combined, they are up some $81 billion compared to the same time period from fiscal 2014.

Defense spending is down, dropping by nearly 4 percent.

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/may/7/feds-set-tax-haul-record-472-billion-one-month/#ixzz3ZU8nWvSR

Follow us: @washtimes on Twitter

THE REAL WAR ON THE MIDDLE CLASS

Eliminating the welfare-warfare state would benefit middle-class Americans by freeing them from exorbitant federal taxes

BY RON PAUL

One of the great ironies of American politics is that most politicians who talk about helping the middle class support policies that, by expanding the welfare-warfare state, are harmful to middle-class Americans. Eliminating the welfare-warfare state would benefit middle-class Americans by freeing them from exorbitant federal taxes, including the Federal Reserve’s inflation tax.

Politicians serious about helping middle-class Americans should allow individuals to opt out of Social Security and Medicare by not having to pay payroll taxes if they agree to never accept federal retirement or health care benefits. Individuals are quite capable of meeting their own unique retirement and health care needs if the government stops forcing them into one-size-fits-all plans.

Middle-class families with college-age children would benefit if government got out of the student loan business. Government involvement in higher education is the main reason tuition is skyrocketing and so many Americans are graduating with huge student loan debts. College graduates entering the job market would certainly benefit if Congress stopped imposing destructive regulations and taxes on the economy.

Politicians who support an interventionist foreign policy are obviously not concerned with the harm inflicted on the middle-class populations of countries targeted for regime change. These politicians also disregard the harm US foreign policy inflicts on Americans.  Middle- and working-class Americans, and their families, who join the military certainly suffer when they are maimed or killed fighting in unjust and unconstitutional wars. Our interventionist foreign policy also contributes to the high tax burden imposed on middle-class Americans.

Middle-class Americans also suffer from intrusions on their liberty and privacy, such as not being able to board an airplane unless they submit to invasive and humiliating searches. Even children and the physically disabled are not safe from the Transposition Security Administration. These assaults are justified by the threat of terrorism, a direct result of our interventionist foreign policy that fosters hatred and resentment of Americans.

Some “military Keynesians” claim that middle-class workers benefit from jobs in the military-industrial complex. Military Keynesians seem to think that the resources spent on militarism would disappear if the Pentagon’s budget were cut. The truth is, if we reduced spending on militarism, those currently employed by the military-industrial complex would be able to find new jobs producing goods desired by consumers. Even those currently employed as lobbyists for the military-industrial complex may be able to find useful work.

Few things would benefit the middle class more than ending the Federal Reserve.  The Federal Reserve’s inflationary policies erode middle-class families’ standards of living while benefiting the financial and political elites. Middle-class Americans may gain some temporary benefits from Federal Reserve created booms, but they also suffer from the inevitable busts.

As I write this, the dollar still reigns as the world’s reserve currency. However, there are signs that other economies are moving away from using the dollar as the reserve currency, and this trend will accelerate as the Federal Reserve continues to pump more fiat currency into the economy and as resentment toward our foreign policy grows.  Eventually, international investors will lose confidence in the US economy, the dollar will lose its reserve currency status, and the dollar bubble will burst.

These events will cause a major economic downturn that may even be worse than the Great Depression. The main victims of this crisis will be average Americans. The only way to avoid this calamity is for the American people to force Congress to free them from the burdens of the warfare state, the welfare state, taxation, and fiat currency.

RIP OFF: Obama’s Amnesty Will Give Illegals $1.3 TRILLION in Free ‘Benefits’ Over Lifetime (AMERICA, YOU HAVE TO THANK THOSE REPUBLICANS IN CONGRESS FOR THIS.)*

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A new study shows that Obama’s amnesty will cost we the taxpayer $1.3 TRILLION for the free benefits his policy will give to illegals over their lifetime.

BY WARNER TODD HUSTON

Here we have a budget that is already overspent, we have a president,Obama, who has created more debt than every single other president combined, and now he wants to make us spend $1.3 trillion more on his freebies to lawbreaking illegals? Isn’t that wonderful?

…if 3.97 million illegal immigrant parents earn legal protection, as Rector estimates, they will earn about $1.3 trillion in Social Security and Medicare payments over their lifetime, he says.

They also immediately are eligible for two cash welfare programs: the earned income tax credit and the additional child tax credit, and can retroactively apply for those benefits for the last three years. Together, Rector reports, the two tax credits can provide up to $7,460 in cash benefits each year for a lower-income family with two children.

Rector calculates the $7.8 billion in total tax credit cash payments to DAPA recipients per year is greater than what newly “on the books” working immigrant parents would pay in taxes.

It’s all just another part of Obama’s plan to destroy America.