Ten weeks after a request for documents, including notes and e-mails, related to the meetings between White House officials and special interest groups that set the stage for Obamacare’s passage, President Obama’s lawyer released a calendar of meetings between the interest groups and a top health care official in the months leading up to the law’s passage.
The 26-page calendar lists over one hundred meetings between Nancy-Ann DeParle and representatives of unions, business groups.
DeParle was the health care reform “czar” during the period Congress was considering enacting Obamacare. She has since been promoted to deputy chief of staff.
Rep. Fred Upton, Michigan Republican and chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, requested documents about the meetings to determine the extent to which the interest groups influenced the content of the president’s health care law.
In one major instance, the pharmaceutical drug sector agreed to back the legislation as long as the costs to that sector did not exceed $80 billion. The drug sector eventually spent over $100 million on television advertisements touting the law.
Upton wants to know about any other deals made between the White House and business sectors or unions.
Obama’s top layer, Robert Bauer, defended the administration’s conduct in passing the health care law in an April 28 letter to Upton.
“The administration took unprecedented steps to engage the American people and the Congress in a discussion about health care, resulting in historic reform,” Bauer wrote.
DeParle’s calendar does not include approximately 200 meetings with congressional lawmakers and staff, Bauer wrote.
It does include over 100 meetings between DeParle and business groups and unions.
Some of the groups that met most frequently with DeParle include AARP, which represents old people, the unions SEIU and AFL-CIO, the pharmaceutical drug sector, and the insurance industry’s trade association, AHIP.
DeParle’s meetings included numerous one-on-one encounters with the CEOs of specific companies, like a July, 2009 meeting with Tom Ryan, the CEO of CVS-Caremark.
On some occassions, the union SEIU and the left wing think tank Center for American Progress met with DeParle jointly.
Some meetings were far more widely attended than others. Included in the calendar are “stakeholder” forums with as many as 40 attendants.
For instance, on Nov. 11, 2009 – when how federal abortion funding in the legislation was a hot topic of debate in Congress – DeParle met with 13 left-wing women’s groups including NARAL, NOW, Feminist Majority, Planned Parenthood and EMILY’s List.
Documents not provided by the White House include any notes or minutes of what took place at the meetings and correspondence relating to changes to the legislation as a result of the meetings.
Bauer in his April 28 letter says Upton should use the calendar to “focus” his further document requests on the meetings listed on the calendar he is interested in knowing more about.
“To the extent the Committee has additional information requests, we expect that the enclosed list of meetings will aid in focusing those requests,” Bauer wrote.
Upton has made parallel document requests to a series of business trade associations and unions who met with the White House, asking for the documents those groups have regarding what took place in the meeting.
That request is part of a strategy to piece together a picture of what took place in the meetings before moving forward more forcefully – potentially including the use of a congressional subpoena – with the initial request to the White House for documents, insider say.
National Journal first reported details about DeParle’s calendar and Bauer’s letter. The story surprised Republicans, who had not leaked the documents to that news organization.
During Bill Clinton’s administration, the White House routinely leaked documents to the press as they provided them to Republicans as a way to get ahead of the news stories that would result from their release.
The National Journal story could comprise the first use of this technique since Republicans took control of the House – and obtained the power of congressional subpoena – in January.
Key Democratic lawmakers were also provided copies of the documents, however, obscuring who may have provided them to National Journal.