Emails released by Congressional investigators suggest that the White House helped secure a lucrative contract for the firm of former White House adviser David Axelrod to lobby on behalf of the president’s controversial health care law, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Mr. Axelrod—who left the White House last year—started AKPD in 1985. The firm earned millions helping run Barack Obama's 2008 campaign. Mr. Axelrod moved to the White House in 2009 and agreed to have AKPD buy him out for $2 million. But AKPD chose to pay Mr. Axelrod in annual installments—even as he worked in the West Wing. This agreement somehow passed muster with the Office of Government Ethics, though the situation at the very least should have walled off AKPD from working on White-House priorities.
It didn't. The White House and industry were working hand-in-glove to pass ObamaCare in 2009, and among the vehicles supplying ad support was an outfit named Healthy Economy Now (HEN). News stories at the time described this as a "coalition" that included the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the American Medical Association, and labor groups—suggesting these entities had started and controlled it. …
Meanwhile, Mr. Axelrod's old firm was hired to run the ads promoting ObamaCare. At the time, a HEN spokesman said HEN had done the hiring. But the emails suggest otherwise. In email after email, the contributors to HEN refer to four men as the "White House" team running health care. They included John Del Cecato and Larry Grisolano (partners at AKPD), as well as Andy Grossman (who once ran the DSCC) and Erik Smith, who had been a paid adviser to the Obama presidential campaign.
In one email, a member of the HEN coalition wrote about receiving “guidance from the White House about their messaging.” A PhRMA official even expressed concern over the apparent conflict of interest in being represented by Axelrod’s former firm, writing, "This is a big problem.”
Axelrod, who is currently running the president’s reelection campaign out of Chicago, is still owed money by AKPD as part of the buyout. The firm also currently employs Axelrod’s son.