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This week in Tarbell
For-profit hospitals & M4A: Massive investor-led health group Tenet Healthcare dropped $630,000 into the shady Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, and they’ll likely be gearing up more as public interest in Medicare for All is growing. New on Tarbell, in partnership with Maplight and The Intercept.
Spinning health insurance lies: Inspired by the banter at this week’s Democratic Debate, Tarbell founder Wendell Potter writes for NBC this week on how organizations like the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future manipulate pollsters and journalists, just like how he manipulated thought leaders as a former executive at Cigna.
P.S. You might notice the format is a little different this week. I’m trying some new style, after receiving comments from a reader. If you have any opinions on Under The Influence’s style or content, please email me or reach out on Twitter at @DanielleRose84. Thanks!
Notable investigations and Solutions
“Free” filing company lobbies up: ProPublica continues its groundbreaking coverage of Intuit Quickbooks, the tax-filing service that is supposed to allow users to file taxes for free but instead burdens them with unnecessary charges. In order to create this profitable system through a government contract for free-filing softward, Intuit launched a lobbying blitz.
Anti-lobbying legislation: Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) reintroduces a bill that would prevent lawmakers from becoming lobbyists for six years after their government gigs. Previous versions, which he introduced since 2010, died quickly in legislative debate, but he’s hoping for more traction after 2020 candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren campaigned on curbs to lobbying.
Uncovering NRA’s influence: The nonpartisan gun safety group, Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, is suing the Justice Department for failing to deliver on a Freedom of Information Act request it opened for more than 18 months. The group is seeking all correspondence between government officials and the National Rifle Association, in an attempt to pin down the group’s influence over legislators.
Break down Big Tech: Facebook’s co-founder Chris Hughes set up a massive $10 million fund to unravel Big Tech monopolies like his own after he campaigned that Facebook is gaining too much control over international speech rights. Facebook, on its part, has already invested $7.5 million in lobbying this year, at a time when Democratic candidates like Sen. Elizabeth Warren are rallying against its influence in the elections.
BLM chief’s got connections: The Bureau of Land Management’s top official, William Pendley Perry, has deep-seated connections to multiple connections to major land rights groups, from which he still receives annual six-figure salaries, an E&E investigation found.
Spotlight on Local Reporting
New York shelters win contracts, fail residents: The Big Apple’s biggest homeless shelter is known to accept hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to take care of homeless individuals, but they’re subject to severe cost-cutting and abuse, Sludge finds.
Illinois probes utilities’ lobbying: The Illinois senate launched a probe into the lobbying efforts of ComEd and Exelon, two major utility companies, and Exelon’s CEO stepped down amid the subpoenas. The Chicago Tribune reported in July that employees of ComEd — one of the biggest lobbying forces in the state — had written a series of $10,000 checks to a political operator who was recently ousted over sexual harassment claims.
Debt collectors take all: A monthly ritual occurs in the sparse Kansas town of 9,000: the hospital takes its former patients to court over unpaid medical debts, bringing in 90 patients to testify in court on one July day. ProPublica investigates the connections between the hospital and courthouses in Coffeyville, Kansas, and how the two are working together against patients.