Friday, 18 April 2014 20:14

Many 'Obamacare' critics benefit from subsidies

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Several big corporations have reaped millions of dollars from "Obamacare" even as they support GOP candidates who vow to repeal the law. This condemn-while-benefiting strategy angers Democrats, who see some of their top congressional candidates struggling against waves of anti-Obamacare ads partly funded by these companies.

Among the corporations is a familiar Democratic nemesis, Koch Industries, the giant conglomerate headed by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. They and some conservative allies are spending millions of dollars to hammer Democratic senators in North Carolina, Alaska, Colorado, Iowa and elsewhere, chiefly for backing President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., renewed his criticisms of the Kochs this week. In a Senate chamber speech, Reid noted that Koch Industries benefited from a temporary provision of the health care law.

The Early Retiree Reinsurance Program, Reid said, "helped the company pay health insurance costs for its retirees who are not covered by Medicare." Reid asked sarcastically: "So it's OK for Koch Industries to save money through Obamacare" even as Koch-related groups seek the law's repeal.

When Congress enacted the health care law in 2010, it appropriated $5 billion for the temporary reinsurance program. The goal was to subsidize employers' costs for workers who retire before they become eligible for Medicare. Hundreds of employers applied — many were corporations, cities and public universities — and virtually all the money was soon distributed.

"If the Affordable Care Act is so awful," Reid asked, "why did Koch Industries use it to their advantage?"

Federal records show that Koch Industries received $1.4 million in early retiree subsidies. That's considerably less than the sums many other employers received. A Koch Industries spokesman said he had no comment on Reid's latest criticisms.

The Koch consortium may be the loudest "Obamacare" critic among the subsidized employers. But many others accepted the subsidies while heavily backing GOP House and Senate candidates, most of who call for repealing the 2010 health care law.

For instance, United Parcel Service received $37 million from the program's subsidies for early retirees. From 1989 through this year, political action committees affiliated with UPS donated $32 million to federal candidates and political parties. Of that, 64 percent went to Republicans, according to records compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Union Pacific Railroad's employee health system received $9.7 million in subsidies. Republicans received more than two-thirds of the nearly $20 million in political donations from the railroad's PACs in the 25-year period tracked by the center.

Altria Client Services Inc. received nearly $11 million in the early retiree subsidies. And Republicans received 71 percent of the nearly $24 million in Altria-related political donations from 1989 to 2014.

One of the biggest subsidy recipients was AT&T, at $213 million. More than half of the $56 million in AT&T-related political donations went to Republicans during the 25-year period.

Spokesmen for AT&T and Altria declined to comment about accepting "Obamacare" subsidies while funding candidates who want to repeal the law.

Other companies that steer most of their political donations to Republicans, and the early-retiree subsidies they received, include: Pfizer Inc., $23 million; GlaxoSmithKline, $14 million; Southern Company Services, $7 million; Lockheed Martin Corp., $4 million; CSX Corp., $2.2 million; KPMG LLP, $1.4 million; and Deloitte LLP, $1.2 million.

The data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics omits much of this year's heavy political spending, because many major players are not required to report donations. The Koch-funded group Americans for Prosperity is among those "super PACs" that can keep their finance details private, even as it dominates the airwaves in some states, like North Carolina, with competitive Senate races.

The Kochs and their allies show little sheepishness about denouncing a federal health law that benefited them. In fact, the Koch-related group FreedomPartners is spending more than $1 million on ads criticizing Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado and Rep. Bruce Braley of Iowa, Democrats running in tight Senate races.

Their alleged wrongdoing? Accepting campaign donations from health companies that benefit from "Obamacare."

 

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