Anti-union, anti-gov't group takes aim at public health plan

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It doesn’t take much scratching beneath the surface of the web site “Patients United Now” to see its anti-union, far-right roots.

Taking aim at the public health plan option backed by President Obama and a wide range of consumer and health care advocates, this strangely anonymous group declares, “The Washington vision of making health care ‘affordable’” will mean “arbitrary bureaucratic standards and taking choices away from patients.”

It warns ominously, “Whether you have one dollar or a billion dollars, once Washington mandates that all Americans participate in a government-controlled health care plan and every doctor and treatment are required to be a part of the government plan, you will have no right to be in control of your health care decisions.”

“We are people just like you,” this faceless web site claims. “We are Americans just like you. We believe patients and doctors should make health care choices, not Washington bureaucrats.”

But there are a few easy clues about who “Patients United Now” is, and for most Americans, it isn’t “people just like you.”

Its home page prominently displays a cover of the right-wing National Review magazine. The cover features a drawing suggesting that a public program that expands access to health care would actually somehow mean less access to doctors.

The group’s “About” page lists no individuals, no consumer or health care or any other “people just like you” organizations. The only specific identifying information it provides is: “Patients United Now is a project of Americans for Prosperity Foundation, which is a nonprofit organized under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.”

Moving right along to Americans for Prosperity’s web site, we find it calls itself “the free-market grassroots group.”

Its president, Tim Phillips, “is currently overseeing the Save My Ballot Tour, aimed at educating citizens about card-check legislation as well as initiatives to prevent the passage of cap and trade legislation.”

The Save My Ballot Tour, serving as the front group for the Chamber of Commerce/corporate attack against labor law reform, is mobilizing against “the radical big labor agenda of taking away the secret ballot.”

Right now, Americans for Prosperity seems to be focusing on fronting for the health insurance industry’s attack on health care reform. AFP is featuring its Patients United Now campaign prominently on its web site.

AFP’s other current campaigns include:

* “RightOnline Summit — Join the nation’s foremost new media experts, leading voices of the conservative movement, and hundreds of citizen activists from across the country, to take back the internet. Americans for Prosperity Foundation is proud to announce our second annual RightOnline Conference on August 14 & 15 in Pittsburgh.”

and

* “Hot Air Tour — Exposing the ballooning costs of global warming hysteria.” This project works on “exposing the economic costs of President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid’s proposed cap and trade legislation to the American taxpayer.” One of AFP’s “featured partners” is the Heartland Institute Conference on Climate Change — an oil-industry-linked panel trying to debunk global warming and steps to deal with it.

* Earlier this year, AFP organized “NoStimulus.com,” an online petition to protest the Obama administration’s economic stimulus package. It was one of the main groups behind the Tax Day anti-government “Tea Parties” heavily promoted by Fox News.

Another indication of just how unlike “people like you” Patients United Now and its parent Americans for Prosperity are:

Under a headline “Your Daily Dose of Absurd Liberal Legislation,” a staffer for Americans for Prosperity ridicules Florida Congressman Alan Grayson for introducing — horrors! — the Paid Vacation Act of 2009!

This bill, introduced last week, is the first paid vacation bill ever introduced in Congress. It would requires one week of paid vacation for employees of companies with at least 100 employees. Three years after passage, the bill would extend this requirement to companies with at least 50 employees, and would require two weeks for companies with 100 employees.

It would cover workers after one year on the job, and would cover part-timers who work 25 or more hours a week and 1,250 hours per year. (For more information on the bill: right2vacation.org)

It’s highly doubtful most “people like you” would consider requiring companies to provide one week of paid vacation “absurd” or harmful.

But it seems backers of Americans for Prosperity and its latest baby Patients United Now are not really “people like you” after all, unless you are a billionaire.

Take the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, which gave Americans for Prosperity Foundation $1 million between 2004 and 2006, according to SourceWatch.org.

The Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation is part of the Koch Family Foundations.

Here’s what SourceWatch has to say about these funders:

“Funding for the foundations comes from the conglomerate Koch Industries, the ‘nation's largest privately held energy company, with annual revenues of more than $25 billion. ... Koch Industries is now the second largest family-owned business in the U.S., with annual sales of over $20 billion.’

“‘The company is owned by two of the richest men in America,’ David H. Koch and Charles G. Koch (described as 'reclusive billionaires'), who have a combined personal fortune estimated at more than $3 billion and who have emerged as major Republican contributors in recent years. ... Both David and Charles Koch are ranked among the 50 richest people in the country by Forbes.

“The Koch brothers control the three family foundations that have 'lavished tens of millions of dollars in the past decade on 'free market' advocacy institutions in and around Washington.' [The Nation, 'What Wouldn't Bob Dole Do for Koch Oil?']

“The foundations are financed via the oil and gas fortunes of Fred G. Koch, a founding member of the John Birch Society. David is a libertarian who ‘provides a significant amount of funding for the Cato Institute's $4 million annual budget.’”

Apparently, and not surprisingly, scratch an anti-public-health-plan campaign and you'll find some anti-labor, anti-environmental, far-right oil and gas billionaires.

suewebb @ pww.org