Hillary Clinton worked to get a high-dollar donor to the Clinton Foundation access to a top White House health care official during the legislative fight over Obamacare, according to emails that reveal new details about the administration’s role in that fight.
An administration official regularly briefed Clinton on the status of Obamacare legislation, the emails show. Some of those messages reveal concerns about the law’s unpopularity, its price tag, and its inability to control health care costs that the administration publicly dismissed or downplayed.
In June 2009, Clinton emailed Neera Tanden, a former Clinton campaign operative, then a top aide to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and now the president of the Center for American Progress.
Clinton wanted Tanden to arrange a meeting between three doctors and Nancy Ann DeParle, the White House official leading its health care reform efforts.
“I can arrange it, no worries,” Tanden assured her. “I know Dean Ornish from the Obama campaign,” Tanden said, referring to one of the trio.
Ornish is a high-dollar Democratic donor. According to federal campaign finance records, he’s given more than $700,000 to Democratic campaigns, party organs, and outside groups since the 1990s.
His organization, the Preventive Medicine Research Institute, previously received $3.5 million in earmarks courtesy of then-House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), one of the recipients of his political contributions.
Ornish has donated to both of Clinton’s presidential campaigns, and co-hosted a fundraiser for the campaign in 2007. He is also a high-dollar donor to the Clinton Foundation, having given between $100,000 and $250,000, according to the Foundation’s website.
Tanden apparently arranged the meeting between Ornish and DeParle. “Thanks for following thru,”Clinton wrote five days later.
That exchange was one of many between Clinton and Tanden during the legislative battles over Obamacare, according to emails to Clinton’s personal email address released by the State Department in response to a series of Freedom of Information Act requests.
The emails show Tanden providing frequent updates from the White House’s perspective on those fights, often sharing details that contradicted administration talking points about the promised benefits of their health care reform efforts.
One selling point for the law was that it would reduce health care costs. But as early as October 2009, six months before Obamacare became law, Tanden cast doubt on its cost-control measures in private exchanges with Clinton.
“In terms of cost controls, the dirty little secret is that we don’t have a lot of good evidence on what works—in a way that that Congress has any appetite to do,” Tanden wrote in one email.