Thursday, August 20, 2009

Republicans Urge/Warn Holder And Continue To Wage Their Healthcare/Deathcare Scare Campaign Against The American Public.


Republicans Urge/Warn Holder And Continue To Wage Their Healthcare/Deathcare Scare Campaign Against The American Public.

The Republican Fear Machine

GOP Senators Urge Holder Not to Appoint Special Prosecutor on Torture

By Emily Pierce
Roll Call Staff |

Nine GOP Senators cautioned Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday against appointing a special prosecutor to investigate alleged torture of suspected terrorists at the hands of American intelligence agents and contractors.

The group of Senators, which includes the vice chairman and four other current members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, penned a letter to Holder saying an investigation would “tarnish the careers, reputations, and lives of intelligence community professionals” and that any investigation would “chill future intelligence activities.”

“The intelligence community would be left to wonder whether actions taken today in the interest of national security will be subject to legal recriminations when the political winds shift,” the letter states. “It is well past time for the Obama Administration to lift the cloud that has been placed over those in the intelligence community and let them return to the job of saving American lives.”

The letter was signed by Intelligence Vice Chairman Kit Bond (Mo.) and Intelligence members Sens. Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), Orrin Hatch (Utah) and Richard Burr (N.C.), along with Minority Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.) and Sens. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), John Cornyn (Texas) and Chuck Grassley (Iowa).

At issue for Holder is whether intelligence operatives or contractors violated the law in using harsh interrogation tactics against high-level terrorism detainees in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But many have speculated that top officials in the George W. Bush administration, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, might ultimately end up as the targets of any special Justice Department investigation.

Cheney has publicly defended the use of severe interrogation methods, saying they produced actionable intelligence that helped prevent further terrorist attacks by al-Qaida. The nine GOP Senators echoed that sentiment in their letter, saying that the harsh tactics used on alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed “produced information that was absolutely vital to apprehending other al Qaeda terrorists and preventing additional attack on the United States, including the West Coast plot seeking to destroy the Library Tower in Los Angeles.”

In 2002, the Bush administration provided the CIA and intelligence contractors with legal guidance as to what harsh methods they could use in interrogations. But since those techniques — which included waterboarding and prolonged sensory deprivation — were revealed, some have questioned whether the United States had essentially legalized the torture of prisoners. Even the Bush administration later revised its legal guidelines to prohibit waterboarding.

When President Barack Obama came into office this year, he specifically prohibited the use of those harsh interrogation methods.

While Obama has said he does not support prosecutions of agents or contractors who operated within Bush-era legal guidelines, he has left open the possibility that people who exceeded those instructions could be held accountable.

Club For Growth Ad Targets Senate GOP Negotiators On Health Reform

By John Stanton
Roll Call Staff

The conservative Club for Growth on Wednesday launched a new television ad campaign in Iowa, Maine and Wyoming as part of a broader effort to pressure a handful of Senate Republicans out of health care negotiations with Democrats.

In a release, the group describes the ad as being “aimed at opposing Democratic big government health care proposals that are being considered” by GOP Sens. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Mike Enzi (Wyo.). All three are members of the Senate Finance Committee, where Grassley is also the ranking member.

The ads, titled “Cave,” feature a narrator outlining a now familiar list of conservative complaints against Democratic-backed health care reforms while ominous music plays in the background. After warning that “liberals” plan to raise taxes and impose government control on health care decisions, the narrator tells viewers to urge their lawmakers “not to cave into liberals on health care.”

Grassley, Enzi and Snowe are part of the “gang of six” negotiators who are attempting to cobble together a bipartisan reform package. The group is expected to hold a private video conference Thursday to resume discussions.

“Sens. Grassley, Snowe, and Enzi are negotiating behind closed doors with liberal Democrats over the future of government-run healthcare. There’s no harm in talking, but it’s important for their constituents to know what’s being discussed ... we believe it is vital that these three Republican Senators do not cave-in to the far left, as three Republican Senators did to provide the winning margin for President [Barack] Obama’s failed ‘stimulus’ spending bill,” Club for Growth President Chris Chocola said in a statement.

Public Option Support Used As Fundraising Tool

Liberal bloggers say they have helped raise more than $160,000 in the past 24 hours for about 60 progressive House Democrats who have pledged to vote against any health care plan that does not include a public insurance option.

The move comes after Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said on Sunday that a public option is “not the essential element” of the administration’s health care overhaul.

“Twenty-four hours ago we put up a page in response to the Sebelius comments that the public plan was something the White House could live without,” said blogger Jane Hamsher, the founder of

The page, which is part of ActBlue, an online clearinghouse for Democratic donors, allows potential contributors to give money to the 60 House Members who signed a letter to Sebelius earlier this week in which they promised to vote against a health care plan without a robust public option.

As of Wednesday night, donors had contributed about $160,000 to those House Members, who range from Earl Blumenauer (Ore.) to John Yarmuth (Ky.), as well as the Blue America political action committee.

The page is being promoted on the Web sites of several liberal blogs, including Hamsher’s.

“That is a big number,” Hamsher said of the amount raised since Tuesday. “It means that a lot of people across the blogosphere really, really want a public plan, and they’re the people who turned out for Obama.”

According to the Web site, the ActBlue page had raised as much as $4,300 for Texas Rep. Lloyd Doggett and $1,273 for Rep. Albio Sires (N.J.).

Learning to Embrace Decay

Written by Chris Cook

Monday, 17 August 2009 20:31

Odd, at the height of summer, to consider the inevitable decay of autumn, but watching the blooms and dry arbutus leaves fall in the garden today I felt a moment of seasonal depression. Maybe it's just the signs of the times catching up to me.

I've always held a morbid fascination for the 1930's; its economic crash, dust bowls, and the rise of fascism. I suppose it was naive to believe I would never get the chance to see its revival.

Reading the history , that ultimate exercise in Monday morning quarterbacking, any fool could see the disastrous policy straws the politicians and pundits of that dirty decade grasped at to find their way out of the morass guaranteed the birth of monsters beyond imagining.

But, to be charitable to those long gone wonks, they hadn't the benefit of historical precedent when they made their awful decisions. We can't make the same claim.

What had seemed an endless summer of economic and social progress following the Second World War is now crashing to earth faster than a stockbroker from a skyscraper. And, the powers that be, those "others", a-flounder in the deep end of capitalism's cyclical tsunami, are again reaching for the straw man salvation of crypto-fascism.

From the Terror War, a concept pioneered by Hitler, and the fiscal barbarity practiced by Gordon Campbell, (doomed policies it turns out plagiarized directly from that same benighted era), to farm failures and the revocation of fiscal controls on capital flows and industry, the sense of mechanical repetition transcends deja vu. And all this without the excuse of ignorance.

It makes one wonder: "Does history matter in the face of a systemic death wish?"

We've all seen the fruits of the totalitarian state. Who, of sound mind and conscience, would want to repeat the horrors of the Gulags and Final Solutions of the past? But recent revelations of plans for vast concentration camps for American Muslims, and presumably others "out of tune" with the current realities, and savaging of constitutional rights is pointing us down a road traveled before.

Which begs the question: "Is this a moment of collective amnesia, or simply the inevitable terminal stage of western civilization?"

A quick study of the history of what we call human civilization reveals patterns of rise and fall, ebb and flow; the great flowering of culture, ideas, and ideals inexorably followed by the cruel usurpation of egalitarian principles by elites controlling political, economic, and military power; and then, the Fall.

You don't have to be a Gibbons' scholar to see the similarities between imperial Rome and the current American
Nepotocracy, or surmise where it's leading.

There's a promise of war in the autumn. The legions of America and her faithful allies will, if punditry be true, crusade to the next most brutalized country, after battered Afghanistan, and eject the infidels of Iraq. George W. Bush, like Caesar before him, is busy replacing the republic and no doubt dreams nightly of his laureled visage beaming at the head of a ticker-tape parade.

The great Pretender will preside clueless over the end of the democratic experiment, and his fascist winter interlude will unknowingly play harbinger to the next world order.

And, the thought of that Spring's possibilities is worth planting for.

So the woman with the Obama/Hitler poster at Barney Frank's town hall meeting yesterday turns out to be a supporter of wacky political activist Lyndon LaRouche. Republicans, notes David Wiegel of the Washington Independent, have been quick to condemn the LaRouchites, fearing association with their disruptive tactics and outlandish allegations, but are they really that different? An op-ed by Ryan Sager in today's Times is fairly instructive.

Here’s a rule: Organizing isn’t cheating. Doing everything in your power to get your people to show up is basic politics. If they believe what they’re saying, no matter who helped organize them, they’re citizens and activists.

Just like the tea partiers! It's always a good thing when citizens and activists like this can find common cause.

News Alert

05:01 PM EDT Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Majority in Post-ABC Poll Say Afghan War Not Worth Fighting
A majority of Americans now see the war in Afghanistan as not worth fighting and just a quarter say more U.S. troops should be sent to the country, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Most have confidence in the ability of the United States to meet its primary goals — defeating the Taliban, facilitating effective economic development and molding an honest and effective Afghan government — but very few say Thursday’s elections there are likely to produce such a government.
For more information, visit

House Provision Allows Medicare To Cover Voluntary End-Of-Life Counseling Sessions

House provision calls for Medicare to cover voluntary end-of-life counseling sessions. As Painter noted in his op-ed, Section 1233 amends the Social Security Act to ensure that advance care planning will be covered if a patient requests it from a qualified care provider [America's Affordable Health Choices Act, Sec. 1233]. According to an analysis of the bill produced by the three relevant House committees, the section "[p]rovides coverage for consultation between enrollees and practitioners to discuss orders for life-sustaining treatment. Instructs CMS to modify 'Medicare & You' handbook to incorporate information on end-of-life planning resources and to incorporate measures on advance care planning into the physician's quality reporting initiative." [, accessed 8/13/09]

Obama Campaign Ad Firms Signed On to Push Health-Care Overhaul

By Timothy J. Burger

Aug. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Two firms that received $343.3 million to handle advertising for Barack Obama’s White House run last year have profited from his top priority as president by taking on his push for health-care overhaul.

One is AKPD Message and Media, the Chicago-based firm headed by David Axelrod until he left last Dec. 31 to serve as a senior adviser to the president. Axelrod was Obama’s top campaign strategist and is now helping sell the health-care plan. The other firm is Washington-based GMMB Campaign Group, where partner Jim Margolis was also an Obama strategist.

This year, AKPD and GMMB received $12 million in advertising business fromHealthy Economy Now, a coalition that includes the Washington-basedPharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America, known as PhRMA, that is seeking to build support for a health-care overhaul, said the coalition’s spokesman, Jeremy Van Ess.

Hiring Obama’s campaign advisers makes sense, said Julius Hobson, a senior policy adviser in the Washington office of the St. Louis-based law firm, Bryan Cave LLP.

“If you’re in support of the president, then you use the people he used,” said Hobson, 61, who teaches a graduate course in lobbying at George Washington University in Washington.


HEN’s other members, according to its Web site, are the AARP, the biggest advocacy organization for retirees; the Advanced Medical Technology Association; the Business Roundtable; Families USA; the Service Employees International Union, all based in Washington, and the American Medical Association based in Chicago. PhRMA represents 28 drugmakers, including New York-based Pfizer Inc. and London-based GlaxoSmithKline Plc.

Larry Grisolano, a partner at AKPD, said his firm and GMMB are splitting the fees on the $12 million campaign, though neither firm would specify its take. In an e-mail, Margolis declined to comment.

Grisolano said an interview that the firm’s history with Obama made it “kind of a logical place to go” for the health- plan ad work.

“We were one of the president’s ad firms, and so we have familiarity with how he spoke about health care during the campaign, what his viewpoints were on health care during the campaign,” he said. “And so I think if you’re interested in reform, we bring some valuable insight in that regard.”

Firms’ Fees

Last year, the Obama campaign paid $2.77 million in consulting fees to AKPD and $340.53 million to GMMB to produce and place ads, Federal Election Commission records show. Firms such as GMMB typically receive a low-to-mid single-digit percentage of ad spending as their fee for an account of that size, said Glenn Totten, a Democratic political consultant.

Axelrod was president and sole shareholder of AKPD from 1985 until he sold his interest after Obama’s victory, government records show. The firm owes Axelrod $2 million, which it’s due to pay in installments beginning Dec. 31. Axelrod’s son, Michael, still works there. He didn’t return a phone call. The firm’s Web site continues to feature David Axelrod’s work on the Obama campaign.

Ben LaBolt, a White House spokesman, said Axelrod “sold his ownership stake in the firm before the administration began.”

Grisolano, 45, said AKPD has had no contact with Axelrod “with regard to the Healthy Economy Now work.” He said he works with Axelrod, 54, on “strategy and research” for the Democratic National Committee.

‘We’re the Best’

“We get business for the same reason anyone else would get business: because we’re the best ones to do it,” Grisolano said.

At the White House, Axelrod’s role in the health-care debate ranges from Sunday talk show appearances to meetings with House and Senate lawmakers.

Van Ess said HEN is now dormant. PhRMA and three other members of HEN, plus the Washington-based Federation of American Hospitals, have created another coalition, Americans for Stable Quality Care, which last week announced a new $12 million ad campaign to promote health-care overhaul. GMMB and AKPD are also working on the new coalition’s ads.

Phil Singer, spokesman for the new group, said in an e- mail that the members of HEN who joined the Stable Quality Care effort “were happy with the work the media firms did for that group and naturally turned to them to help advise and consult this new effort.”

PhRMA senior vice president Ken Johnson said decisions on ad spending would be tailored to details of the House and Senate bills that emerge in September.

“Absolutely no decisions have been made,” Johnson said. “Any discussion about what we are or aren’t going to do this fall would be wildly speculative.”

Johnson declined to say if AKPD or GMMB would work on the campaign or how much additional funding PhRMA might provide for groups such as HEN.

“Trust me, all the Democratic consultants who work for us claim to have close ties to the White House,” Johnson said.

To contact the reporter responsible for this story: Timothy J. Burger in Washington at

Myths And Falsehoods About Health Care Reform

Media Matters for America identifies and debunks 14 myths and falsehoods surrounding the health care reform debate.

MYTH 1: There Is No Health Care Crisis

CLAIM: The health care system currently works fine, and only a purportedly small number of uninsured people would benefit from reform.

  • RUSH LIMBAUGH: "There really isn't a crisis in health care in this country. The crisis in health care that -- if you wanna say, that does exist -- is the fear that a major illness or catastrophe could wipe you out, which isn't gonna change. In fact, the odds of you being wiped out by a catastrophe or accident once the government gets started running this stuff is greater than if the private sector -- but day-to-day, there's no health care crisis in this country. You can get it. So, it isn't about health care, per se. This is just about gaining control, taking money, and controlling people's lives, and wiping out Republicans -- a nice cherry on top." [Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show, 6/18/09]

  • STEVE DOOCY: "Currently, 90 percent of all Americans have got some sort of health care coverage, which means they are effectively blowing up the system for 5 percent. Now, the 5 percent, you gotta worry about them -- you gotta worry about everybody who doesn't have it. But is it worth all of this for 5 percent?" [Fox News' Fox & Friends, 7/30/09]

REALITY: Roughly 25 million Americans were underinsured in 2007.

According to Cathy Schoen, senior vice president of The Commonwealth Fund, "From 2003 to 2007, the number of adults who were insured all year but were underinsured increased by 60 percent. Based on those who incur high out-of-pocket costs relative to their income not counting premiums despite having coverage all year, an estimated 25 million adults under age 65 were underinsured in 2007." [Testimony from Schoen before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, 2/24/09]

The Underinsured Do Not Receive Adequate Care And Face Financial Hardship.

Schoen explained that the "experiences" of the underinsured were "similar" to those of the uninsured, noting that "over half of the underinsured and two thirds of the uninsured went without recommended treatment, follow-up care, medications or did not see a doctor when sick. Half of both groups faced financial stress, including medical debt." [Schoen testimony, 2/24/09]

Insurance Companies Currently Rescind Policies When Their Insured Customers Need Treatment.

Insurance companies restrict or deny coverage by rescinding health insurance policies on the grounds that customers had undisclosed pre-existing conditions. On June 16, a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee held a hearing exploring this practice, with the goal of examining "the practice of 'post-claims underwriting,' which occurs when insurance companies cancel individual health insurance policies after providers submit claims for medical services rendered." The committee also released a memorandum finding that three major American insurance companies rescinded 19,776 policies for over $300 million in savings over five years and that even that number "significantly undercounts the total number of rescissions" by the companies.

Currently, Insurance Companies Deny Coverage Based On Pre-Existing Conditions.

CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen wrote in a May 14 article, "According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 21 percent of people who apply for health insurance on their own get turned down, charged a higher price or offered a plan that excludes coverage for their pre-existing condition. ... The health insurance industry doesn't deny that people are rejected or charged higher premiums because of pre-existing conditions."

MYTH 2: Health Care Reform Will Impose Rationing

CLAIM: Progressive health care reform proposals will introduce a system of "rationing" into American medicine.

  • SEAN HANNITY: "We're gonna have a government rationing body that tells women with breast cancer, 'You're dead.' It's a death sentence." [Fox News' Hannity, 6/19/09]

  • MICHELLE MALKIN: "Big Nanny Democrats want to ration health care for everyone in America -- except those who break our immigration laws." [Malkin column, 7/22/09]

REALITY: Insurance Companies Already Ration Care.

Insurance companies acknowledge that they ration care, restricting coverage of procedures and tests like MRIs and CAT scans and denying coverage for pre-existing medical conditions.

Sanjay Gupta: "I can tell you, as a practicing physician ... who deals with this on a daily basis, rationing does occur all the time." As Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's chief medical correspondent, explained: "[P]eople always say, 'Is there going to be rationed care?' And I can tell you, as a practicing physician, as someone who deals with this on a daily basis, rationing does occur all the time. I mean, I was in the clinic this past week. And I -- you know, at the end of clinic, I get all this paperwork that basically says, 'Justify why you're doing such and such procedure. Justify why you're ordering such and such test.' And if the justification is inadequate, the answer comes back, 'Well, that's not going to be covered.' Which basically is saying that the patient is going to have to pay for it on their own, which is, in essence, is what rationing is, in so many ways." [CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, 8/12/09]

Insurance Companies Ration Care By Rescinding Coverage.

As former senior executive at CIGNA health insurance company Wendell Potter explained in June 24 Senate testimony, insurance companies restrict or deny coverage by rescinding health insurance policies on the grounds that people had undisclosed pre-existing conditions. President Obama recently cited one such example, noting that "[a] woman from Texas was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer, was scheduled for a double mastectomy. Three days before surgery ... the insurance company canceled the policy, in part because she forgot to declare a case of acne. ... By the time she had her insurance reinstated, the cancer had more than doubled in size."

MYTH 3: Health Care Reform Provides For Euthanasia, "Death Panel"

CLAIM: House health care reform bill mandates end-of-life counseling that will pressure seniors to end their lives.

  • BETSY McCAUGHEY: "And one of the most shocking things I found in this bill, and there were many, is on Page 425, where the Congress would make it mandatory -- absolutely require -- that every five years, people in Medicare have a required counseling session that will tell them how to end their life sooner, how to decline nutrition, how to decline being hydrated, how to go in to hospice care. And by the way, the bill expressly says that if you get sick somewhere in that five-year period -- if you get a cancer diagnosis, for example -- you have to go through that session again. All to do what's in society's best interest or your family's best interest and cut your life short. These are such sacred issues of life and death. Government should have nothing to do with this."

  • HANNITY: "Now, she [McCaughey] actually uncovered in this bill a particularly outrageous provision -- and by the way, there will be more to come in the Obamacare plan. According to McCaughey, she's saying under the House provision and the House version, perfectly healthy senior citizens are going to be forced to undergo, quote, 'end of life counseling,' apparently to encourage them to check out before their time is up." [ABC Radio Networks and Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show, 7/17/09]

REALITY: Advance Care Planning Is Not Mandatory In The House Health Care Bill.

Section 1233 of America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 -- which includes "Page 425" -- amends the Social Security Act to ensure that advance care planning will be covered if a patient requests it from a qualified care provider [America's Affordable Health Choices Act, Sec. 1233]. According to an analysis of the bill produced by the three relevant House committees, the section "[p]rovides coverage for consultation between enrollees and practitioners to discuss orders for life-sustaining treatment. Instructs CMS to modify 'Medicare & You' handbook to incorporate information on end-of-life planning resources and to incorporate measures on advance care planning into the physician's quality reporting initiative." [, accessed 7/29/09]

PolitiFact: McCaughey's claim that seniors would be encouraged to end their lives "is an outright distortion." "McCaughey incorrectly states that the bill would require Medicare patients to have these counseling sessions and she is suggesting that the government is somehow trying to interfere with a very personal decision. And her claim that the sessions would 'tell [seniors] how to end their life sooner' is an outright distortion. Rather, the sessions are an option for elderly patients who want to learn more about living wills, health care proxies and other forms of end-of-life planning. McCaughey isn't just wrong, she's spreading a ridiculous falsehood." [, 7/23/09]

CLAIM: Health care reform would establish a "death panel."

  • GLENN BECK: "So, why is there no more discussion than there is on Sarah Palin and what she said over the weekend that there would be ... [a] death panel for her son Trig? That's quite a statement. I believe it to be true, but that's quite a statement." [Premiere Radio Networks' The Glenn Beck Program, 8/10/09]

  • BRIAN KILMEADE: "[E]veryone's talking about seniors, and they're talking about the middle class and affordable health care. If the upper class is paying for the next two classes, and are seniors going to be in front of a death panel? And then just as you think, 'OK, that's ridiculous,' then you realize there's provisions in there that seniors in the last lap of their life will be sitting there going to a panel, possibly discussing what the best thing for them is." [Fox & Friends, 8/10/09]

REALITY: "Death Panel" Claims Have Been Conclusively Discredited.

In one of more than 40 media reports debunking claims of euthanasia and "death panels," PolitiFact wrote: "We've looked at the inflammatory claims that the health care bill encourages euthanasia. It doesn't. There's certainly no 'death board' that determines the worthiness of individuals to receive care. ... [Palin] said that the Democratic plan will ration care and 'my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's "death panel" so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their "level of productivity in society," whether they are worthy of health care.' Palin's statement sounds more like a science fiction movie (Soylent Green, anyone?) than part of an actual bill before Congress. We rate her statement Pants on Fire!" [, 8/10/09]

MYTH 4: Health Care Reform Legislation Will Cover Undocumented Immigrants

CLAIM: Under health care reform, you will be denied care, and it will be given to undocumented immigrants instead.

  • DICK MORRIS: "The point about these death panels is that if you restrict the amount -- the lifesaving surgeries, and you tell someone, no, you can't have that bypass surgery -- but I'm going to die if I don't have it. Well, here's the grief counselor. That will happen. And whether they fund the grief counselor or the end-of-life counselor or not, the rationing will take place when they tell you, no, you can't have the surgery because we have to give it to a 40-year-old illegal immigrant instead." [Hannity, 8/17/09]

REALITY: House Bill Stipulates That Those "Not Lawfully Present" May Not Receive Subsidies To Purchase Insurance.

Under the "Individual Affordability Credits" section of the America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009:



(1) IN GENERAL. -- For purposes of this division, the term ''affordable credit eligible individual'' means, subject to subsection (b), an individual who is lawfully present in a State in the United States (other than as a nonimmigrant described in a subparagraph (excluding subparagraphs (K), (T), (U), and (V)) of section 101(a)(15) of the Immigration and Nationality Act) --



Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.

Senate HELP bill excludes those "not lawfully present" from federal funding. Under the "Making Coverage Affordable" section of the Affordable Health Choices Act:

(h) NO FEDERAL FUNDING. -- Nothing in this Act shall allow Federal payments for individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.

MYTH 5: Health Care Reform Will Raise Your Taxes

CLAIM: Health care reform would be funded by broad-based tax increases.

  • MARA LIASSON: "But the fact is, what have they been hearing? It has a $1 trillion price tag over 10 years, it's going to raise your taxes. I think –

CHRIS WALLACE: "Well, aren't those both true?" [Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday,8/2/09]

REALITY: The Surtax In House Bill Applies Only To Income Exceeding $350,000 Per Year For Joint Filers.

The House health care legislation would establish a 1 percent tax on joint income exceeding $350,000 but not greater than $500,000 per year; a 1.5 percent tax on joint income exceeding $500,000 but not greater than $1 million per year; and a 5.4 percent tax on joint income exceeding $1 million per year. Single filers would be subject to the surtax starting at income exceeding $280,000 per year. In a July 15 Huffington Post piece, Rep. George Miller (D-CA) stated that "[o]nly the highest earning 1.2 percent of American households will pay a surcharge."

MYTH 6: Health Proposals Would Tax All Small Businesses

CLAIM: The House Democrats' bill will raise income taxes on small businesses.

  • Wall Street Journal editorial: "The health-care bill is a jobs killer, with its 5.4-percentage point income surtax that would hit small business especially hard." [Wall Street Journal, 8/9/09]

REALITY: Ways And Means Committee Stated That According To JCT, Only 4.1 Percent Of Small-Business Owners Would Be Affected By Surtax.

The legislation would establish a 1 percent tax on joint income exceeding $350,000 but not greater than $500,000 per year; a 1.5 percent tax on joint income exceeding $500,000 but not greater than $1 million per year; and a 5.4 percent tax on joint income exceeding $1 million per year. Single filers would be subject to the surtax starting at income exceeding $280,000 per year. The House Ways and Means Committee stated, "Using the broadest definition of a small business owner (i.e., any individual with as little as $1 of small business income), the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation has estimated that only 4.1% of all small business owners would be affected by the health care surcharge."

CLAIM: House Democrats' bill would subject all small businesses to an 8 percent payroll tax as a penalty for not providing insurance to employees.

  • GRETCHEN CARLSON: "[T]he real victim, potentially, of this health care reform ... is the small business owner. ... [T]hey are going to be hit potentially with this health care reform if they don't offer health care to their employees -- an 8 percent penalty on them." [Fox & Friends, 7/16/09]

REALITY: Companies With Annual Payrolls Of Less Than $250,000 Would Pay No Penalty Under The House Bill.

The House bill would establish a 2 percent payroll penalty for employers with combined payroll between $250,000 to $300,000 that don't offer health insurance to employees; a 4 percent penalty for employers with $300,000 to $350,000 in payroll; a 6 percent penalty for employers with $350,000 to $400,000 in payroll; and an 8 percent penalty for companies with annual payrolls exceeding $400,000. Additionally, the bill establishes tax credits for small-business employers that do provide health care.

MYTH 7: Health Care Reform Would Add $1 Trillion-Plus To Deficit

CLAIM: Health care reform "would add around $1 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years."

  • AP: "But even the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says that none of the health plans pending on Capitol Hill would control long-term spending, and that ones with the elements Obama wants would add around $1 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years." [Associated Press, 8/3/09]

  • Karl Rove claimed that House Democrats are "planning on a 1 trillion, 420 billion -- 420 million dollar price tag of additional spending over the next 10 years, and what they've done is, today, supposedly -- we haven't seen the details -- but they've trimmed that by 10 percent. So we're only going to beggar ourselves by $900 billion over the next decade and that's assuming they get all of the tax increases and all of the Medicare cuts that are built into this." [Hannity, 7/29/09]

REALITY: CBO Found That House Bill Would Increase The Federal Budget Deficit By $239 Billion Over 10 Years -- Not $1 Trillion.

In a July 17 cost estimate of the bill as introduced, the CBOexplained that its "estimate reflects a projected 10-year cost of the bill's insurance coverage provisions of $1,042 billion, partly offset by net spending changes that CBO estimates would save $219 billion over the same period, and by revenue provisions that JCT estimates would increase federal revenues by about $583 billion over those 10 years." CBO thus concluded the legislation "would result in a net increase in the federal budget deficit of $239 billion over the 2010-2019 period." The CBO has not released full cost estimates of the health care reform proposals being considered by the Senate.

MYTH 8: House Bill Would Ban Private Individual Insurance

CLAIM: House health care reform bill would "outlaw individual private coverage."

  • An Investor's Business Daily editorial falsely claimed that the House bill includes "a provision making individual private medical insurance illegal." The editorial later stated that the "provision would indeed outlaw individual private coverage." [IBD, 7/15/09]
  • HANNITY: "The one thing that we do know in the health care bill is that it's gonna literally -- the bill says -- Investor's Business Daily had an article today -- and the bill says that if you don't have your insurance the year this legislation is implemented, you can't have a private insurance company. So that will end -- hang on -- that will end private insurance." [Hannity, 7/16/09]

REALITY: The Bill Does Not "Outlaw" Private Individual


The provision to which the IBDeditorial referred establishes the conditions under which existing private plans would be exempted from the requirement that they participate in the Health Insurance Exchange. Individual private health insurance plans that do not meet the "grandfather" conditions would still be available for purchase, but only through the exchange and subject to those regulations. As Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius noted, the assertion "that individuals would no longer be able to keep their personal coverage" is "just not accurate. It's not in any version of the House bill; it's not in the Senate bill." [MSNBC's Morning Joe, 7/22/09]

MYTH 9: Obama Said He Didn't Read House Bill

CLAIM: Obama "admitted" that he has not read the House health care reform bill.

  • Limbaugh asserted that Obama "doesn't know what's in the bill! He admits he doesn't know." [The Rush Limbaugh Show, 7/21/09]

  • "Obama Admits He's 'Not Familiar' With House Bill" [Heritage Foundation, 7/21/09]

  • HANNITY: "The president even admitted before the press conference -- the day before -- he hadn't read the bill." [Hannity, 7/24/09]

REALITY: Obama Actually Said He Was "Not Familiar" With Opponents' False Talking Point That Bill Would Ban Private Individual Insurance.

During a July 20 conference call, a blogger asked Obama to comment on the claim made in the July 15 IBD editorial -- which is false -- that the bill, in the blogger's words, "will make individual private medical insurance illegal." Obama responded, "You know, I have to say that I am not familiar with the provision you're talking about."

MYTH 10: Co-Ops Are An Adequate Substitute For A Public Option

CLAIM: The co-op "compromise" eliminates the need for the public option

REALITY: Progressive Experts Argue Public Plan Is Necessary For Successful Reform.

Numerous media figures and outlets have characterized Sen. Kent Conrad's (D-ND) cooperative health insurance proposal as a "compromise," "hybrid," or bipartisan "alternative" to a public insurance option without noting the view by progressive experts that a public option is necessary for health care reform to be successful and that any departure from that will result in the failure of reform efforts. These experts dispute suggestions that Conrad's co-op proposal is a plausible midway point between competing methods of addressing health care reform, because, they say, it precludes a fundamental component of effective reform: bargaining power against the health care industry. For example, former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich described the co-op proposal as a "bamboozle" and said that "[n]onprofit health-care cooperatives won't have any real bargaining leverage to get lower prices because they'll be too small and too numerous.

Pharma and Insurance know they can roll them. That's why the Conrad compromise is getting a good reception from across the aisle." And University of California-Berkeley professor Jacob Hacker argued that Conrad "has offered no reason to think that the cooperatives he envisions could do any of the crucial things that a competing public plan must do." Additionally, ABC's Charles Gibson reported that "several health care experts" have said, in Gibson's words, "[I]f you take out the public option in terms of insurance, there's going to be no restraints on the cost of insurance." [ABC's World News with Charles Gibson, 8/17/09]

MYTH 11: Obama Is Pushing A System Like The U.K. And Canada

CLAIM: Obama is pushing a single-payer system like Canada's or a nationalized health care system like the United Kingdom's.

  • BRET BAIER: "President Obama spent a good deal of time at that news conference [on June 23] talking about health care reform, and Canada's medical system has been cited as a possible model." [Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier, 6/29/09]

  • Hannity said, "I think Obama certainly" wants a Canadian-style "single-payer system." [Hannity,7/20/09]

  • CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: "[Obama]'s a man who's expressed ... a radical domestic agenda, which involves, as he puts it every time, a holy trinity of health care reform, by which he means nationalizing health care. ... And this is all in the service of leveling the differences between rich and poor and leveling the differences between classes." [Special Report, 4/29/09]

  • JOE SCARBOROUGH: "Of course -- of course it's -- not only is it naïve, it's reckless to suggest that in the midst of a banking crisis that may have a $2 trillion price tag that you are going to choose this time to nationalize health care with a $635 billion down payment." [Morning Joe, 3/9/09]

REALITY: Obama Has Rejected Canadian-Style Single-Payer System And U.K.-Style Nationalized Health Care.

During a March 26 online town hall discussion, Obama was asked: "Why can we not have a universal health care system, like many European countries, where people are treated based on needs rather than financial resources?" He replied, in part, "I actually want a universal health care system," adding that rather than adopting a "single-payer system" like Canada's, "what I think we should do is to build on the system that we have and fill some of these gaps." Indeed, Obama hasembraced the creation of a federally funded "public plan" as one of many insurance options available in the health care market, not the sole option, as in "single payer" systems such as Canada. And as noted in a March 5 post, "Obama's plan leaves in place the private health care system, but seeks to expand it to the uninsured" and "the plan is very different from some European-style health systems where the government owns health clinics and employs doctors," as in the United Kingdom.

MYTH 12: Obama, Dems Pushing "Socialized Medicine"

CLAIM: Health care reform proposals are socialist and will lead to socialized medicine.

  • GLENN BECK: "President Obama has his massive $1.5 trillion health care plan. It's hogging up the news cycle. The Republicans and, you know, a lot of people are starting to say, 'Isn't this socialist here? I mean, this is pretty crazy.' The answer to me on that one is really easy: Yep, it's good old socialism. You know, pretty much raping the pocketbooks of the rich to give to the poor. I think that's socialism." [Fox News' Glenn Beck, 7/21/09]

  • LIMBAUGH: "The Obama budget also funds the relentless drive toward socialized medicine. And all that is just the beginning. The way to look at this budget is not with an economic lens, it is with a philosophical one. Liberals want to make America -- remake it in their image. And this is how you will pay for it." ["Rush's Morning Update," 2/27/09]

  • Guest-hosting The O'Reilly Factor, Laura Ingraham stated: "Powerful arguments against socialized medicine have been around not for months, but for decades. Ronald Reagan was saying this back in 1961." After playing a clip from Reagan's recording, Ingraham added, "I have to believe that Ronald Reagan is smiling down on these town hall forums where law abiding and hard-working Americans are standing up for freedom." [Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, 8/14/09]

REALITY: Conservatives Have Trotted Out "Socialized Medicine" Smear For 75 Years -- And It's Never Been True.

Numerous conservative media figures have revived the "socialized medicine" smear to undermine the efforts of Obama and congressional Democrats, most recently by promoting Ronald Reagan's 1961 attacks on a legislative precursor to Medicare. But as the Urban Institute wrote in an April 2008 analysis, "socialized medicine involves government financing and direct provision of health care services," and therefore, recent progressive health-care reform proposals do not "fit this description." The analysis also noted: "Similar rhetoric was used to defeat national health care reform proposals in the 1990s and, with less success, to argue against the creation of Medicare in the 1960s." Indeed, a Media Matters for America analysis found that dating as far back as the 1930s -- with respect to at least 16 different reform initiatives including President Franklin D.

Roosevelt's consideration of government health insurance when crafting the 1935 Social Security bill; President Lyndon Johnson's 1965 legislation establishing Medicare; and the health-care initiative by President Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary Clinton in 1993 and 1994 -- conservatives have attempted to smear those proposals by calling them "socialized medicine" or a step toward that purportedly inevitable result.

MYTH 13: Prominent Opponents Of Health Care Reform Are Credible

CLAIM: Betsy McCaughey is a credible health care expert.

  • JOHN ROBERTS: "Former New York Lieutenant Governor Betsy McCaughey is a long-time expert in public health and is currently the chairwoman of an advocacy group for patient safety." [CNN'sAmerican Morning, 6/24/09]

  • ELIZABETH MacDONALD: "I want to go to my next guest. She's terrific. We're going to go fair and balanced now. She's Betsy McCaughey. She says that cutting health-care costs will only lead to worse care not better. Betsy is founder and chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infectious Deaths." [Fox Business' Cavuto, 5/11/09]

REALITY: Betsy Mccaughey Is A Serial Misinformer Who Has Perpetuated Numerous Falsehoods About Health Care Reform.

The Atlantic's James Fallows has pointed to McCaughey as an exampleof someone for whom there "seems to be almost no extremity of being proven wrong which disqualifies" her from being given a platform in the media. Most recently, McCaughey falsely claimed that the House health care reform bill would "absolutely require" end-of-life counseling for seniors on Medicare "that will tell them how to end their life sooner" -- a claim that many in the media repeated. McCaughey repeatedly falsely claimed that the Senate HELP committee's bill "basically" "pushes everyone into an HMO-style plan."

Additionally, McCaughey concocted the false claim, which was nonetheless widely repeated in the media, that a health IT provision in the economic recovery act enabled government bureaucrats to "monitor treatments" or restrict what "your doctor is doing" with regard to patient care. On multiple occasions, after being challenged on her false claims about health care legislation, McCaughey reportedly insisted that she was right about the ultimate effect of a bill despite misrepresenting what it actually said. McCaughey's influence over the health care debate is not new. As Fallows has written, "In the early 1990s McCaughey single-handedly did a phenomenal amount to distort discussion of health-care policy and derail the Clinton health bill. She did so through an entirely fictitious argument about what the bill would do."

CLAIM: Rick Scott is a credible health care expert.

REALITY: Rick Scott Was Chairman Of A Scandal-Plagued Hospital Firm.

Scott has repeatedly been quoted by CNN, Fox News, and The Wall Street Journal opposing Democrats' health care reform efforts. Frequently, media outlets that have hosted or quoted Scott have failed to note that he resigned as chairman of the nation's largest for-profit health care company in 1997 amid a federal Medicare fraud investigation. According to a July 26, 1997, Los Angeles Times article, Scott resigned from his former position as chairman of Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. "amid a massive federal investigation into the Medicare billing, physician recruiting and home-care practices of" Columbia/HCA, "the nation's largest for-profit health care company." According to a December 18, 2002, Justice Department press releasedescribing a tentative settlement with HCA to resolve civil litigation, "When added to the prior civil and criminal settlements reached in 2000, this settlement would bring the government's total recoveries from HCA to approximately $1.7 billion."

Media Matters has also documented repeated instances in which media outlets and figures have uncritically repeated or aired Scott's health care misinformation, including that of his advocacy organization, Conservatives for Patients' Rights.

CLAIM: Newt Gingrich is a credible health care expert.

REALITY: Newt Gingrich Has A Financial Stake In Opposing Democrats' Reform Proposals.

Gingrich has been quoted by Politico opposing the public plan, but Politico did not explain that his Center for Health Transformation is a for-profit entity that receives annual membership fees from several major health insurance companies, which have a direct interest in whether a public insurance plan is part of health care reform. Moreover, Gingrich himself reportedly profits from his involvement with the group. Indeed, the group's website notes that the "Center for Health Transformation and The Gingrich Group are corporate for-profit organizations not affiliated with any other corporation or organization" [emphasis added]. Gingrich has also repeatedly spread misinformation about health care reform.

MYTH 14: Government can't run a health care program

CLAIM: Medicare has failed, and so the government can't be trusted to "run health care."

  • HANNITY: "But why would you have so much faith, trust, hope, and confidence? Are you happy when you go to the DMV? Are you happy with the Postal Service? Social Security is bankrupt. Medicare is bankrupt. Why do people have faith that the government can run health care?" [Hannity, 7/20/09, from the Nexis database]

REALITY: Medicare Costs Have Risen More Slowly Than Private Insurance.

As Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman noted, "since 1970 Medicare costs per beneficiary have risen at an annual rate of 8.8% -- but insurance premiums have risen at an annual rate of 9.9%. The rise in Medicare costs is just part of the overall rise in health care spending. And in fact Medicare spending has lagged private spending: if insurance premiums had risen 'only' as much as Medicare spending, they'd be 1/3 lower than they are."

Medicare is extremely popular. A May 2009 Commonwealth Fund study concluded that "elderly Medicare beneficiaries reported greater overall satisfaction with their health coverage, better access to care, and fewer problems paying medical bills than people covered by employer-sponsored plans." And as Mark Blumenthal wrote for National Journal, a survey by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that in 2007, "56 percent of enrollees in traditional fee-for-service Medicare give their 'health plan' a rating of 9 or 10 on a 0-10 scale. Similarly, 60 percent of seniors enrolled in Medicare Managed Care rated their plans a 9 or 10.

But according to the CAHPS [Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems ] surveys compiled by HHS, only 40 percent of Americans enrolled in private health insurance gave their plans a 9 or 10 rating." Blumenthal added, "More importantly, the higher scores for Medicare are based on perceptions of better access to care. More than two thirds (70 percent) of traditional Medicare enrollees say they 'always' get access to needed care (appointments with specialists or other necessary tests and treatment), compared with 63 percent in Medicare managed care plans and only 51 percent of those with private insurance."

The Government Currently Provides The "Best Care Anywhere."

In a 2005 Washington Monthly article headlined "The Best Care Anywhere," Philip Longman wrote of the Veterans Health Association (VHA): "Outside experts agree that the VHA has become an industry leader in its safety and quality measures. Dr. Donald M. Berwick, president of the Institute for Health Care Improvement and one of the nation's top health-care quality experts, praises the VHA's information technology as 'spectacular.' The venerable Institute of Medicine notes that the VHA's 'integrated health information system, including its framework for using performance measures to improve quality, is considered one of the best in the nation.' "

REPORT: Conservative Media Push 75-Year-Old "Socialized Medicine ...

Media Matters for America

The Urban Institute wrote in an April 2008 analysis that "socialized medicine involves government financing and direct provision of health care services," ...
See all stories on this topic


How It Works
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Today's Featured Special Issue Tag

Appoint A Special Prosecutor For Torture Now

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You can capitalize any part of these words to taste. Where the singular is given above, the plural will match as well. If nothing else seems like a close issue match, then you can use #government.

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Please note: all the help tags begin with an asterisk (*), NOT a number sign (#). For example, if you send a reply to @cxs including *login in the message, we will send a new private, direct message with a fresh, encrypted login link.

The New Twitter Response Option Step By Step

And now, for Newbies, and those who have requested a more detailed explanation, here is exactly how you set up and use the new Twitter action alert response option, step by step.

1) First, you must have an account with Twitter of course. If not, go to and click on the light green "Join" button. Pick a name to use as your Twitter username (the form will tell you if your selection is available) and pick a password to use for logging into your Twitter homepage. Enter also your email address and your name and submit the form. You are now logged into your Twitter home page.

2) Once you are logged into Twitter, go to and click on the gray "Follow" button under the pic of the Capitol dome in the upper left. You are now a follower of @cxs, which is our gateway to send your messages to Congress.

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4) In that direct message you will find a link that will automatically log you into our contact info setup page back on this site. Enter your contact info, just like you would on one of our regular action pages and submit the form. You will only have to do this one time.

5) Now go back to your Twitter home page and from now on all you have to do to send your messages to Congress is FIRST to type @cxs in the update status box at the top and then type a space. You will see the "What are your doing?" line at the top change to "Reply to cxs", and the grey button labeled "update" will change to "reply". Now type in the required issue tag of your choice, in the case of the issue in this alert #p998, plus any additional comment you might like to add, and you can send your reply. So, the minimal complete deliverable reply in this case would be this

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It's that simple! Once you have a Twitter account, follow our Twitter account (@cxs), and setup the contact info to associate with your To Congress thru Twitter submissions, all you have to do is Step 5 above to send all subsequent messages.

Please spend just a moment more and we will explain to you the purpose of the issue tags and how exactly they work. Because the gateway relays messages sent to @cxs automatically to your members of Congress, we needed a way to filter out chatter NOT expressly intended to be so sent. By requiring the use of an issue tag in each message we can have a high degree of confidence that the person sending the message has put some thought into what issue the message is intended to address.

There are two types of issue tags. The example above is one of what we are calling "
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But we also have general issue tags for larger categories like #health, #economy, etc, so you can speak out on any issue under the sun that concerns you, and rally everyone else you know on Twitter to do the same. If you use one of the standardized general issue tags in your message (all listed in the left hand column) there is no defined subject line besides the general category, so we are requiring that you add a personal comment of at least 40 characters, for otherwise your members of Congress will not know what aspect of health care, the economy, or whatever you are telling them you want them to do something about, and what exactly you want them to do about it. So this would be a possible reply, using a general issue tag, with a comment of the required length

@cxs Please pass single payer #health care (HR 676) now

Do not combine more than one issue tag in a single reply, or you will get a message from the system asking you to remove one or the other.

It is really very simple once you do it the first time. If there is something you need to do that you are not doing exactly correctly, you will get an appropriate message from our processing server as a direct message if you are already a follower, or as a simple Twitter reply message (basically telling you that you need to be a follower of to proceed) if you are not.

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Dear Ed.,

After two months of your hard work, 65 members House drew a line in the sand: no public option, no health care reform. You responded by raising more than $175,000 for those members in less than 48 hours.

It's a great start, but it's just the beginning. We need to make sure these 65 members hold firm. We've shown them we have their backs. Now they need to get ours.

I'm starting a petition to the House to keep their pledge to support only a public option in both the House bill AND the conference bill.

I'm going to be in DC next month. If we can reach 25,000 signatures, Jane Hamsher and I will be there to hand-deliver the petition to the House when they return to take up health care.

Click here to add your name to our petition to members of Congress who pledged to support only a strong public option.

Members of the House who took this pledge will be under insane pressure from Rahm Emanuel and the rest of the Obama Administration to cave for an insurance industry bailout.

Rahm's plan all along has been to trade away the public option. But Rahm didn't count on you. Now that we've shown progressives in the House it's possible to stick together, it will be our job to make sure these members hold the line on a strong public option.

Let's be clear: these members need to hold the line on two votes. Once when the House passes its own bill, and again on the conference bill that's combined with the Senate's version. Anything less is a vote for an insurance industry bailout.

Help us reach 25,000 signatures on our petition to House progressives. You can make sure that progressives keep the pledge to only vote for a strong public option.

Click here to add your name to our petition:

Thanks so much for your help. I hope we can get to 25,000 signatures so I can deliver the petition with Jane next month.


Eve Gittelson (nyceve)

Help us reach 25,000 petition signatures: House progressives need to keep the pledge for a strong public option.

When Congress returns to work on health care next month, Jane Hamsher and nyceve will be there to deliver the petition.

Click here to add your name to our petition.

Letter from Top News Outlets Protesting Off-The-Record Briefings Sent to 600 Press Secretaries

By Joe Strupp

Published: August 19, 2009 1:20 PM ET

NEW YORK A joint letter from a group of news outlets and journalism organizations -- ranging from The New York Times to Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press -- is being sent today to some 600 press secretaries urging them to stop the practice of off-the-record briefings.

An announcement from the Sunshine in Government Initiative, which is coordinating the protest, states that the letter is an effort to stop the anonymous briefings that often limit how reporters can attribute information.

"Many Congressional staff members and mid-level administration officials, regardless of party affiliations, have been increasingly wary of speaking on the record in recent years and, as a result, begin their public speeches by telling the audience that their remarks are all 'off the record,'" the announcement said.

Added Rick Blum, coordinator of the Sunshine in Government Initiative: "In today's age of Twitter and blogs, an 'off-the-record' speech will be publicized, just not by reporters. It just doesn't make sense anymore and the practice should stop."

The letter, sent to some 600 press secretaries today -- most in Washington, D.C and including White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs -- stated, in part: "Unfortunately, the practice of granting 'background' or 'off-the-record' status to officials' comments has gradually expanded over the years to a point where many public officials see no problem with telling large audiences that their speeches are also off the record. After canceling a speech in January 2009 at a Midwestern university when a student newspaper objected to her off-the-record terms, a government official said such a practice is common practice in Washington and she has 'spoken widely off-the-record and it has been respected.'"

The Entire Letter Is Below:


Memo to Press Secretaries of Congress and the Executive Branch

Re: Keeping public Speeches "on the record"

In the spirit of greater transparency for government activities, a goal that we in the media applaud, we would like to encourage you to address a common source of friction between reporters and the public officials they cover - off-the-record comments at public meetings.

This practice primarily involves Congressional and federal agency staff members, who frequently offer insight into policy deliberations at widely attended events such as conferences, but either refuse to allow reporters to use the information or insist that they not be named in news stories.

As reporters, we frequently allow administration officials and congressional staff aides to speak on "background" or "off the record" in our private conversations, but those agreements are made selectively in one-one-one situations in an effort to encourage officials to be more forthcoming. Presentations at public meetings by their nature do not involve classified information or other information that must be withheld from the public.

Unfortunately, the practice of granting "background" or "off-the-record" status to officials' comments has gradually expanded over the years to a point where many public officials see no problem with telling large audiences that their speeches are also off the record. After canceling a speech in January 2009 at a Midwestern university when a student newspaper objected to her off-the-record terms, a government official said such a practice is common practice in Washington and she has "spoken widely off-the-record and it has been respected."

Another example - commonplace for many Washington reporters - occurred recently when two high-level Hill staffers told an audience of 300 people that they would be speaking off the record.

On a few occasions, Obama administration officials also have gone the off-the-record route at public meetings.

Unfortunately, many congressional offices, committees, and federal agencies follow this policy, prohibiting their staff members or officials from speaking on the record, even when their remarks are delivered to a large audience to which the press has been invited.

This practice disadvantages the press and the public in favor of special audiences who are not bound by the attribution rules. Sometimes these events are webcast, and many non-press professionals use their own e-mail news updates, blogs, and even "tweets" to pass along tips they hear about policy direction. They may not feel the same obligation to honor an off-the-record request as professional journalists.

Despite this inequity, many reporters in such situations have honored the declarations that the remarks are off the record.

To address this longstanding problem, we ask that government officials, including congressional staff members and federal agency representatives, start treating their comments at widely attended events as on the record.

Keeping public remarks by officials at all levels in the government on the record will greatly improve transparency and accountability for taxpayers.


American Society of News Editors
Association of Alternative Newsweeklies
Bureau of National Affairs, Inc.
Daily Press Gallery of Congress Standing Committee of Correspondents
New York Times
Newspaper Association of America
Periodical Press Gallery of Congress Executive Committee
Radio-Television News Directors Association
Radio-Television Correspondents' Association
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
Society of Professional Journalists
Tax Analysts
U.S. News & World Report


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