Are we surprised? I'm not, but I'm pretty annoyed that these organizations use the lag time in reporting donations along with the anonymity to subvert legislation and democracy with absolutely zero accountability for it until it's far too late to do anything about it.
Via National Journal:
The backchannel spending allowed insurers to publicly stake out a pro-reform position while privately funding the leading anti-reform lobbying group in Washington. The chamber spent tens of millions of dollars bankrolling efforts to kill health care reform.
The behind-the-scenes transfers were particularly hard to track because the law does not require groups to publicly disclose where they are sending the money or who they are receiving it from.
Right. The only way you find out for sure (and even then it's not absolutely etched in stone) is to actually go and match up money going out of one of these TAX-EXEMPT organizations with money going in from another. The only way to do that is to examine their 990 returns, which are filed months and sometimes even years after the fact, as the article explains:
For example, in its 2009 IRS filing, AHIP reported giving almost $87 million to unnamed advocacy organizations for "grassroots outreach, education and mobilization, print, online, and broadcast advertising and coalition building efforts" on health care reform. That same year, the chamber reported receiving $86.2 million from an undisclosed group. Bloomberg's Drew Armstrong first reported the AHIP-chamber link. The $86 million accounted for about 42 percent of the total contributions and grants the chamber received.
The next year followed a similar pattern. In 2010, AHIP reported giving $16.5 million to unnamed advocacy organizations working on health care reform and the chamber reported receiving about $16.2 million from an undisclosed source, which the Alley has learned was AHIP. The $16.2 million accounted for about 8.6 percent of the total contributions and grants the chamber received that year.
Chamber spokeswoman Blair Latoff would not provide the providence of the $16.2 million donation saying only, "We filed our tax returns for calendar year 2010 in November. Schedule B lists all of our contributions, one of which is $16 million dollars from one entity."
That's right. They filed their tax returns for calendar year 2010 in November, 2011. The Affordable Care Act was signed in March, 2010. That means the US Chamber and AHIP had no obligation to disclose their funding or their expenditures until one year and eight months later, when the world has moved on to the next adventure, "Repeal and Replace."
This spending is far more harmful to democracy than political ads, in my opinion. One hundred million dollars was spent to lobby Congress, create astroturf groups to convince people it was a bad thing to get health insurance coverage without being excluded for pre-existing conditions, to gin up all sorts of opposition to it, and many other activities, I'm sure.
Honestly, I'm not sure how our economy could withstand the blow of all those jobs lost in the lobbying, public relations, and astroturf industries if we actually managed to force these insane people to disclose how they work against the interests of people in this country in real time. Because the one thing billionaires hate? Having to own their evil.