Senator Ben Nelson Is Angry (Second in a Series)

A new report that claims Nelson received $2 million from insurance and health care interests leads the public to wonder whether it is the merits or the money that is driving his decisions.
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Change Congress launched its second "good souls corruption" attack yesterday, this time against Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson. (Two Dems in a row; we'll be more balanced next time.) The attack has excited an hysterical response from the Senator's office. Read about the charge (here) and the response (below), and then please sign our petition to Senator Nelson.

At the beginning of May, Senator Nelson was reported to have said that including a "public option" (giving Americans a choice to opt into a public system) in a national health care proposal was a "deal breaker," and that he would "form a coalition of like-minded centrists opposed to the creation of a public plan, as a counterweight to Democrats pushing for it."

On May 7, our friends at Public Campaign produced a report that showed that Senator Nelson has received more than "$2 million from insurance and health care interests in his three campaigns for federal office."

These two facts together expose Senator Nelson to the charge of "Good Souls corruption" -- legal, even ethical acts that reasonably lead the public to wonder whether it is the merits or the money that is driving this Senator's decision.

Senator Nelson responded immediately to the attack by issuing the following press release. [Bracketed annotations are courtesy of me, not the Senator's staff.]

May 28, 2009 - The office of Nebraska's Senator Ben Nelson today warned Nebraskans not to fall for a misleading fundraising gimmick by a special interest group called Change Congress. The group has issued a press release concerning Senator Nelson and said it was sending mailers to Nebraskans.

Senator Nelson's spokesman Jake Thompson issued this statement:
"There's no doubt Senator Nelson understands the insurance industry's important role providing health care for millions of Americans. After all, he's been an insurance executive [The ever effective, "I'm a former insurance exec!" defense], an insurance industry regulator, a governor who created a children's health insurance program, and today he represents Nebraska, arguably the insurance capital of the world. [And no doubt the insurance industry fundraising capital of the world.]

But let's look at this group closely. They claim, 'Ben Nelson said he may not support Obama's plan.' Can they send us a copy of the plan? [Maybe not, but we can certainly send you again to the report indicating he opposed a key element of the President's plan] No, because President Obama hasn't offered a specific plan yet. Next, they ask if people are ready to change Congress and 'take on special interests' and 'only donate to politicians who prove they are willing to do that.' Then, they promote an election law proposal they're lobbying for.

So, let's get this straight: These people are endorsing something they haven't seen [No idea what this means: We're endorsing a bill introduced by Senators Durbin and Specter. We've seen this bill.], criticizing Senator Nelson for something he hasn't done [Interesting. Where is the press release denying the reports from the beginning of May?] and using health care as a fundraising gimmick [A "fundraising gimmick"? If he means we're fundraising around this issue, that's false. If he means our strike is a "gimmick," then what's he so upset about?] --to lobby for unrelated special interest legislation. ["UNRELATED"!?!! Are you kidding me? One can define corruption as unrelated to the objects corrupted, but that doesn't make it so.] These people have a political agenda that has nothing remotely [We have an agenda. It is to create a Congress where legislation is on the merits -- not, as it is today, guided by the implicit threat of large campaign contributors.] to do with helping Nebraskans get and keep affordable, high quality health care. Their effort is silly, sad and sophomoric. [Unlike this sort of name calling.]

Nebraskans are far too smart to fall for just another special interest group grabbing a hot issue and misrepresenting both the president [Um, where did we misrepresent the President?] and Senator Nelson [And where was Senator Nelson's letter to Ryan Grimm complaining he had misrepresented him -- before we raised this issue?] to raise money to lobby Congress [And where is our effort to raise money to lobby Congress -- we've asked people to STOP giving money to Congress.]"

Here are some facts about Senator Nelson and health care:
  1. During his presidential campaign and recently President Obama has said Americans who like their private insurance will get to keep it, or have the option to join another plan.
  2. Ben Nelson agrees and he's eager to see more details from the president, and he wants to make sure that the 85 percent of Nebraskans who have insurance today will continue to have the option of staying with their existing plans.
  3. Senator Nelson believes that all Americans should receive health insurance and agrees with President Obama that those who currently have health insurance should be assured that it won't be taken away from them.
  4. Senator Nelson is spending much of the congressional break in Nebraska this week meeting with Nebraskans, listening to them discuss health care and reform ideas. He's listening to patients, providers, employers and others. He looks forward to hearing from many more Nebraskans on ways to strengthen, broaden and provide stability in America's health care system."
  5. [But please notice, Senator Nelson has not indicated that he supports a central idea in Obama's plan -- that Nebraskans will also have the freedom to choose a public option if (and imagine this) the private options are too costly.]

As I said, this is only the second in a series. (The first was Representative Conyers.) We will continue to call out members of both parties -- and again, I promise, a Republican is coming soon -- who make it too easy for Americans to believe (as 88% in my district believe) that money buys results in Congress.

Congress could change this problem tomorrow -- by enacting the Trustworthy Government Now Act (aka, the "Fair Elections Now Act"). And of course Members can avoid the charge of "good souls corruption" by co-sponsoring that bill now.

But meanwhile, we'll be working hard to make more enemies, by making the status quo very uncomfortable. Nice was for the 90s. CHANGE was the promise for today.

Join our Donor Strike -- promising not to support any candidate who doesn't co-sponsor the Trustworthy Government Now Act.

And finally, celebrate this good news just in: Senator Nelson now indicates that he has changed his view, and is now "open" to the public option.

Bravo, Senator. Now about the system of funding that makes people wonder?

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