Mother Jones investigates the cozy and expensive relationship between Cancer Treatment Center of America and Freedomworks.
FreedomWorks Has Millions Of Reasons To Repeal The ACA
Credit: Gage Skidmore
July 31, 2014

Hey, Justice Scalia, I'm sure glad money in politics doesn't corrupt people. Oh, wait.

Andy Kroll at Mother Jones has a report on leaked documents showing the cozy relationship between Freedomworks and the owners of Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

Freedomworks, as you might recall, bills themselves as a small donor 'grassroots' organization. They're anything but that. Kroll:

For five years, FreedomWorks has proclaimed itself a leading tea party group fueling the conservative grassroots and fighting establishment Republicans. The organization touts its small-dollar donations from everyday activists, but it also has received substantial funding from corporate donors and one-percenters, most notably Richard Stephenson, a FreedomWorks board member who founded theCancer Treatment Centers of America. Documents obtained by Mother Jones—including emails, financial records, and fundraising pitches—show that CTCA, in addition to Stephenson, gave money to FreedomWorks, and that Stephenson's son, Shawn, a Switzerland-based businessman, had a central role in overseeing the Stephenson family's support of FreedomWorks. The goal, Shawn Stephenson noted in a September 2010 email, was "creating a tsunami of change directed at DC that is and will be historic." But the documents also reveal that the Stephensons and CTCA expected real returns for the money they pumped into FreedomWorks.

Stephenson expected a decent ROI (return on investment in corporate-speak) on his donations:

CTCA and the Stephenson family's donations came with strings attached. In emails, the Stephensons and company executives said they expected their support of FreedomWorks to pay off in tangible ways for CTCA and an affiliated nonprofit, the Gateway for Cancer Research, which Richard Stephenson chairs. In a December 2011 email titled "FreedomWorks ROI [return on investment]," CTCA's Stephen Bonner discussed how to "do a better job measuring the value we get from [FreedomWorks]." He continued, "The main value I believe has been intended to enhance and advance our online effectiveness." In another email, as CTCA weighed whether to donate more to FreedomWorks, Bonner wrote that executives should compile a list of "previous investments made in FreedomWorks, and the benefits (hard and soft) derived by CTCA and Gateway."

One of those benefits, it seems, was for FreedomWorks to lead the grassroots charge to demonize and fight for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. CCTA's business model assumes that insurance is for the elite, and tailors their acceptance policy around that. From a 2013 Reuters report:

Stephenson began building what was to become a national network of cancer centers that would uphold "the Mother Standard," described on the company website as "a warm, nurturing approach (that) involves caring for patients as we would want care for our own mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and other loved ones."

The hospitals also would seek patients "who were willing to travel to receive treatment" and "who were covered by private commercial insurance and could afford those expenses not paid by insurance," according to the 2004 court opinion.

The Affordable Care Act tossed a monkey wrench into that business model. CTCA has very few Medicaid and Medicare patients. In addition to being a fierce libertarian, Stephenson carved out a cherry-picked market where the most profit could be had with the best outcomes. The ACA defies that model, instead enabling everyone from poor to rich to have basic access to health care.

FreedomWorks has led the charge against the ACA. They routinely send out emails to this day fundraising on the promise they will continue to work toward its repeal. At the end of that rainbow, Richard Stephenson is waiting with his hand out for the wallets of those who can most afford what he's selling.

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