Sen. Chris Dodd, hammered by his opponents and some in the media as having been intimate with Big Insurance from which has received in the past 20 years $2.3 million in campaign contributions, has been at some pains to show that he is not on their leash, which is why he is now peeing on their leg.
They will not mind the wetting.
Two recent commentaries on Dodd, one in the Hartford Courant and one in Slate magazine, both make use of Ralph Nader’s old chestnut that Dodd is “the senator from Aetna.”
“Among the three principals currently working to combine two Senate committee bills on health reform,” Slate notes, “the strongest advocate for creation of a ‘public option’ government insurance plan (which private insurers strongly oppose on competitive grounds) happens to represent the state of Connecticut. And the state of Connecticut happens to be home to the insurance industry generally and to health insurance giants Aetna and Cigna HealthCare in particular... Dodd must know that if he fights the good fight and loses, his reputation won't likely suffer, because the odds are against any robust public option making it into the final bill. Might this knowledge corrupt his effort?"
There are happy advantages to losing battles. A lost battle on the public option would involve manageable adverse consequences for Dodd. To those on the left who support a public option that might have unseemly consequences for insurers in his own state, Dodd could legitimately boast that he had fought the good (losing) fight. Having escaped the public option, Big Insurance will naturally be in a forgiving mood when Dodd's agents later come round to tap them for future campaign contributions.
It is well known, both among Dodd’s political opponents in Connecticut and a handful of media critics, that large companies support with campaign contributions politicians who wish to burden them with negotiable regulations and high taxes. One of Dodd’s Republican opponents vying for his seat in the senate, Linda McMahon recently has come under hatchets for offering campaign contributions to both parties, common practice among company executives who hope to purchase what has been called a chair at the political bargaining table. There is not a single politician in Connecticut’s wall-to-wall Democratic congressional delegation who has not benefited from the practice.
Smaller companies do not have the resources to purchase the very expensive ears of incumbent politicians -- which is why regulations generally benefit Big Business, which is also why Big Business is not opposed to negotiable regulations. This has always been the case in American politics. Large businesses use regulations to drive more vigorous but smaller competitors from the field. The fortunes of Rockefeller and other captains of industry were made in Washington D.C.
Dodd’s support of the public option is seen by some as a savvy political move to inoculate himself from charges that he is in the pocket of Big Insurance. Slate notes, “It could help Dodd shed the stink of Angelo Mozilo and re-establish his credentials as a consumer champion. For the moment, that's probably a stronger imperative than pleasing a bunch of insurance executives in Hartford... So maybe Dodd's the right man for the job after all.”
A perfumed pass from a congressional ethics committee -- one of which refuses even now to censure Charlie Rangel, a notorious tax cheat -- has momentarily staunched the stench flowing from Mozilo to Dodd. The same Democratic congressional worthies on ethics committees have refused to censure the House’s earmark king, Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, even though he has been know to shuttle millions of tax dollars to his relatives. Murtha is the political patron of Rep. John Larson, who holds in perpetuum what may be the safest Democratic seat in Connecticut, if not the world. For reasons everyone can guess, none of the members of the state’s U.S. congressional delegation have jumped at the prospect of criticizing these two Dorian Grays of the U.S. Congress.
Connecticut’s fearless media, which gets a tingle up its leg whenever it passes on an ethically challenged Democratic Party, is busy now tossing Gov. Jodi Rell over its horns.