Kennedy to Fundraise With Lobbying Giant Opposed to Medicare for All

He is a Medicare for All cosponsor

Rep. Joe Kennedy III/ Getty Images
October 8, 2019

Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D., Mass.), who has endorsed the Green New Deal and Medicare for All, will be attending a fundraiser organized by the founding partner of a lobbying firm that represents Exxon Mobil and Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Kennedy will attend a "DC Kickoff" fundraiser organized by Tracy Spicer, founding partner of the all-Democratic lobbying firm Avenue Solutions, according to an invitation obtained by the Boston Globe. The fundraiser asks hosts to donate the maximum $5,600 to bolster Kennedy's primary challenge against Sen. Ed Markey (D., Mass).

Spicer, a longtime aide to Kennedy's great-uncle, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D., Mass.), has been a lobbyist for Avenue Solutions for more than a decade. Blue Cross Blue Shield, one of the private health insurance companies opposed to Medicare for All, has been a client since the firm was founded and has paid nearly $5 million to Avenue Solutions, with an annual retainer fee ranging from $162,000 to $320,000. Health Care Service Corporation, a subsidiary of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, is also a client and has paid $1,440,000 since 2013, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Spicer has also lobbied on behalf of UnitedHealth Group, the largest U.S. health insurer, since 2005, raking in more than $4 million for the firm.

David Wichmann, the CEO of UnitedHealth, blasted Medicare for All back in April, saying some of the proposals would "surely jeopardize the relationship people have with their doctors."

"The wholesale disruption of American health care being discussed in some of these proposals would surely jeopardize the relationship people have with their doctors, destabilize the nation’s health system, and limit the ability of clinicians to practice medicine at their best," Wichmann said on an earnings call. "And the inherent cost burden would surely have a severe impact on the economy and jobs—all without fundamentally increasing access to care."

In February, Kennedy's office sent out a press release announcing he would cosponsor Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s (D., Wash.) Medicare for All bill, saying he was "proud" to support it. Jayapal admitted in May her bill would kill one million private insurance jobs and has also credited the legislative push for sinking health insurance stocks.

"Today I am proud to sign my name to the updated Medicare for All bill being introduced in the House of Representatives because I believe it is a strong roadmap for the future of our system," Kennedy said.

Another longtime client of Avenue Solutions is Exxon Mobil, which has received intense scrutiny from supporters of the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. Avenue Solutions has received at least $1.7 million from Exxon since 2009, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Kennedy issued a press release in December saying he was "proud" to support the Green New Deal.

News of the fundraiser with one of D.C.'s most influential lobbyists angered congressional liberals and Markey allies. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.), who co-authored the Green New Deal with Markey, sent out a fundraising email on Markey's behalf Monday. She attacked Kennedy for his "high-dollar" fundraiser with former representative Joe Crowley (D., N.Y.) on Oct. 15. Crowley, who was the Democratic caucus chairman in the House, lost to Ocasio-Cortez in a historic upset in the 2018 congressional primary.

Crowley is now a senior policy adviser at Squire Patton Boggs, a powerful D.C. lobbying firm that represents special interests that conflict with the Green New Deal and Medicare for All.

"We need to help keep Markey in the Senate where he has a proven record of fighting for transformative change," Ocasio-Cortez wrote.

While Kennedy has received support from some Washington Democrats, such as Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), Markey is quickly building up support from progressive and establishment Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), Rep. Ro Khanna (Calif.), and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Politico reported.