Under The Influence, Tarbell's Weekly Newsletter

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This Week In Tarbell

“Even if there were a Democratic president — frankly even if there were a Democratic Senate and a Democratic House — I don’t think the [Bernie] Sanders version of ‘Medicare for All’ is going to be implemented.” That quote is a bit surprising, coming from one of the Obama administration staffers who helped construct the Affordable Care Act. Tarbell, in collaboration with investigative news site Maplight, found Obama’s chief strategist David Axelrod recently aligning with the insurers’ lobby, America’s Health Insurance Plans.

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Notable Reporting and Solutions

Before we head into the second round of Democratic 2020 candidate debates, let’s review the candidates’ policy on campaign finance and reform. I’ll follow up soon with what their FEC reports really look like. 

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Did you watch the debate last night, or watching Part II tonight? Send me your thoughts!

A single-dose gene replacement treatment drug for a rare children’s disease has become the crux of the sky-high drug price debate – for its $2 million price tag. OpenSecrets unpacks the manufacturer Novartis’s lobbying campaign that intends to lengthen and lighten payment plans – ​and ensure that they get paid in full for the treatment.

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In case you missed it, Politico released a report last weekend showing that the Agriculture Department under the Trump administration had systematically hidden and buried scientific studies proving the damage of climate change.

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GoFundMe has proven a Hail Mary for individuals who have exhausted their checking accounts on a debilitating disease. But the fundraising platform has just complicated the perverse meritocracy of American health care, turning the most sympathetic cases into the most worthy of treating.

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Behind the debate between Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren on the best way to wipe out student debt, the four companies that hold the majority of federal loans are exerting their influence in Washington.

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The Environmental Governance and Data Initiative – which has been archiving data that’s been stripped from environmental agencies – updated their landmark 2018 report showing that the EPA’s enforcement record took a painful plunge. Based on the updated data, it turns out the EPA’s enforcement record is the lowest it has been since 1994, not 2008 as was originally reported.

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Showering K Street with lobbying funds seems to have paid off for Big Pharma: Stat notes that Congress watered down legislation that would have made it harder for drug companies to protect their high prices with patents.

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Environmental and ethics organizations are raising concerns over Trump’s current pick for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations – the current ambassador to Canada, who sometimes allows her coal magnate husband to respond to emails directed to her from government agencies.

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The head of a renewable energy company and a member of a shadowy polygamist organization managed to scam more than half a billion dollars out of the biodiesel energy credit system. Bloomberg has the wild, long read this week.

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Bill Wehrum, the EPA air pollution chief who led a secretive and influential group of utilities, has finally stepped down. But not without unraveling scores of pollution regulations.

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One of the principles of the radical arts and culture festival Burning Man is “Leave No Trace.” Luckily, that’s not always possible in lobbying, and Sludge found the traces. To lobby the government on permit requirements, the festival organizers hired Holland & Knight, which also lobbies for one of the largest defense firms in the world that still sells weapons to Saudi Arabia for its bloody bombing campaign against Yemen.

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Analysis: Losing track of the number of Trump administration officials who resigned amid ethical questions? So are journalists: Salon’s Heather Digby Parton explores the swamp that’s flooding the White House.

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Spotlight on Local Influence

New Jersey cut a dramatic tax break to the nuclear technology firm Holtec to unlock a ream of jobs, but they did so knowing that Ohio had previously dumped the company’s tax breaks after the promised jobs never appeared. The company instead has thick political ties in the Garden State, according to the ProPublica Local Reporting Network.

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Ten outpatient surgical centers shuttered. A neonatal intensive care unit was stripped of its ability to provide emergency services. The Tennessean this week writes about the Ballad Health merger that’s left patients all over northern Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia and North Carolina forced to drive hundreds of miles for health care.

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