Opinion

Claire McCaskill’s Phony Transparency Ploys

Claire McCaskill Getty Images/Mark Wilson

Steve Gruber Radio host

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) has a special section of her taxpayer-funded website showering praise on herself for all the ways she’s supposedly fought for transparency, open government and ethics in politics. Nothing like patting yourself on the back for all to see in an effort to be open.

“Claire is a nationally recognized advocate for oversight and transparency as a means of restoring Americans’ confidence in their federal government,” she says (about herself).

But before you start conjuring visions of “Mr(s). Smith Goes to Washington”, consider that one of McCaskill’s recent “transparency” proposals is actually a sleazy, underhanded effort to pad the profits of one of her top campaign donors dressed up as “good government.”

McCaskill sold her recently introduced “Patient Advocacy Transparency Act” as a window into possible conflicts of interest between drug manufacturers and healthcare non-profits.

But healthcare wonks quickly picked up on a conspicuous omission in the bill’s text, which exempts Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) from its new requirements, while creating costly reporting requirements on the PBM’s industry rivals, drug manufacturers.

Why is this important? Special carve-outs for small groups of politically-connected companies that would otherwise be subject to new rules is not only corrupt, it creates an uneven playing field for firms that have to play by the rules, distorting the marketplace. It is the kind of cronyism that irritates voters not only in Missouri but across the nation.

Now, if the acronym PBM doesn’t mean anything to you, I can promise you it does to McCaskill. Controversial PBM Express Scripts, the largest drug middleman of them all, is based in Missouri and one of McCaskill’s all-time top campaign donors. Like we always say follow the money.

Indeed, McCaskill’s list of top donors is a kind of murderer’s row of companies that stand to benefit from her preening “investigations” and grandstanding, including:

Trial lawyers: several huge law firms with extensive opioid-related litigation are among McCaskill’s top donors, including Simmons Hanly Conroy

Health insurers/HMOs: Centene Corp tops out the list of McCaskill donors in this category, helping earn her #1 and #2 spot in the lists of corporate contributions from the HMO and insurance industries, respectively.

Hospitals, health professionals, hedge funds, private equity and lobbyists: McCaskill is also raking in the dough from all these groups — just the kind of people who spend money on government transparency without anything in it for them!

The truth is, McCaskill is under the gun as one of the most vulnerable senate incumbents of the cycle, running for reelection in a solidly red state that voted 56.4 percent for President Trump.

Her desperation may explain why her attempts to cloak herself in the aura of “accountability” are so transparently phony, but it certainly doesn’t excuse it. It takes a special kind of cynicism to mix fake idealism with corruption so shamelessly.

Another red flag from McCaskill’s “Patient Advocacy Transparency Act” ploy is how dubious the argument for it is when subjected to any level of scrutiny.

For example, a report issued by McCaskill is the basis for proposing to suddenly reveal the private identify of donors to charitable non-profits, ending decades of privacy introduced by the landmark Supreme Court decisionNAACP vs. Alabama.

In NAACP vs. Alabama, the high court ruled Alabama’s demands for the civil rights group’s membership lists was designed to intimidate, instead of serving a legitimate governmental purpose.

But McCaskill’s rationale to destroy the legacy of NAACP vs. Alabama is thin gruel. Her report says that industry groups donated $9 million to patient advocacy organizations over five years. In context, that’s a trivial amount, less than 3 percent of the groups’ current revenues extrapolated over five years.

By comparison, McCaskill has taken more money, proportionally, from trial lawyers salivating over the lawsuits her new proposals will allow them to file than these patient advocacy groups received, and that doesn’t even touch the many other interested parties helping fund McCaskill’s reelection bid.

The proposal would also create a brand new set of paperwork requirements on organizations helping people in their time of greatest need. Personally, I’m pretty happy the American Cancer Society et al. are out there doing their thing. I don’t know why McCaskill wants to make that harder.

In the end, it comes back to money. McCaskill is helping PBMs at the expense of drug manufacturers. PBMs are her political allies and pay dearly for the privilege — an investment that appears to be paying off. The returns for the rest of us are questionable at best.

McCaskill’s “accountability” shtick is a tired tall tale, it’s time we all stopped giving it any credence. Take just a moment and reflect on how this all falls under the new Democratic Slogan rolled out for the 2018 midterms, #ForThePeople.

Steve Gruber is a talk radio host with multiple affiliates in Northern Michigan.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.