August 7, 2009

Rachel Maddow examines how one former disgraced Bush official, Thomas Scully is influencing the health care debate.

MADDOW: During the Bush years, there were quite a few administration officials who were forced to leave their jobs under dark clouds. There was Claude Allen, for example, President Bush's domestic policy adviser who left after shoplifting a whole bunch of stuff from Target.

There was Bush's aides czar, Randall Tobias, famous for telling foreign countries they couldn't get any American money to fight AIDS unless they cracked down on hookers. Mr. Tobias resigned, of course, after his name turned up on the client list of the D.C. madame.

There was David Safivian, the head of procurement at the White House, who was busted in the Jack Abramoff scandal. There was Steven Griles, number two guy at Interior Department who was also busted in the Jack Abramoff scandal.

Actually, if I keep listing how many Bush administration officials were busted in the Abramoff scandal, we're going to be here a long time. But suffice to say, there were a lot of dark clouds over a lot of Bush administration resignations. One of them was President Bush's administrator of Medicare, a man named Thomas Scully.

Mr. Scully's career in government took a turn for the infamous after he ordered another government official to withhold information from Congress. That information was: how much President Bush's Medicare prescription drug benefit would cost. Publicly, the Bush administration was saying it would cost no more than $400 billion. Privately, they knew it was more like $600 billion. But Thomas Scully made sure that Congress never knew that.

A Bush administration investigation found that Mr. Scully threatened to fire the actuary who came up with the real cost figures if that actuary gave those real cost numbers to Congress. And while he was doing that, Mr. Scully was also busy getting himself a special waiver that would allow him to get a job as a health industry lobbyist as soon as he left government.

So, think about this for a second. He helped that prescription bill get passed by hiding its true costs, then he immediately went to work for companies who stood to make a mint from the fact that he got that bill passed. It's nice work, if you can get it, right?

You know, it is technically legal to interfere with a federal employee who's trying to communicate with Congress. But Mr. Scully was never charged. He just became a lobbyist and started raking in the D-O-U-G-H, dough. Ha, ha, ha, suckers!

Where's Thomas Scully today? Thomas Scully is a general partner now of a venture capital firm investing in a whole lot of different medical companies, everything from kidney dialysis centers to nurse temping agencies to manufacturers of heart and vascular defect devices.

One of the companies they recently invested heavily in is called Solantic Corporation. Not only did they invest in Solantic, Tom Scully is now a member of Solantic's board of directors. Solantic is a Florida-based urgent care provider famous for trying to take a Walmart-like for-profit franchisee approach to health care. The chairman of Solantic is a man named Rick Scott.

Rick Scott-Rick Scott? Why does that name sound so familiar?


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think you've had groups today, Conservatives for Patients' Rights that have bragged about organizing and manufacturing that anger. I think you've got somebody who's very involved, a leader of that group that's very involved in the status quo, a CEO that used to run a health care company that was fined by the federal government $1.7 billion for fraud.


MADDOW: That's who he is! That's the guy. Rick Scott! Right!

The disgraced medical fraud profiteer who's now head of the organization Conservatives for Patients' Rights-which is proudly promoting this effort to disrupt town hall events across the country, at which health care reform is supposed to be discussed. Their Web site not only has a running list of all these town hall events, but they also have a special page for video of these events, bragging about which members of Congress they've been able to rattle and who's events they've been able to shut down.

Rick Scott, the chairman of a chain of for-profits walk-in clinic, many of which are inside Walmart, is actively promoting and taking credit for the organized, intimidating chaos that's trying to stop even discussions about reforming health care.

After he was called out by Robert Gibbs of the White House, Mr. Scott told the conservative Web site CNS News, quote, "No one needs to manufacture anger or concern. It's a shame that Mr. Gibbs chooses to dismiss these Americans and their very real concerns."

These American, and their very real concerns, that the chain of for-profit clinics they've set up inside Walmart might some day get some competition. And, oh, my elderly relatives are really worried that the chain of for-profit clinics they're setting up inside Walmart might be threatened, too.

Rick Scott is just a regular American who happens to have perpetuated one of the largest health care frauds in human history and now senses a threat to his current for-profit health scheme which is being overseen by a disgraced Bush administration official whose own record on the subject is so vile he actually makes the word corrupt look bad.

How dare Robert Gibbs suggest that he's not just a regular guy?

In totally coincidental, unrelated news, America's health insurance plans, the national association that represents more than 1,000 insurance companies have just put out a list of talking points. The things they want real Americans to say at these town hall events. Here's your script, real people-written for you by the health insurance industry, which isn't trying to manufacture the appearance of grassroots opposition at all.

If you don't feel like taking your talking points directly in the health insurance industry, how about a middleman? Like, say, the organization FreedomWorks? Which sounds really grassroots. They have now published their own August recess action kit, your handy-dandy guide for disrupting town hall meetings at a location near you.

The kit actually begins with, "Dear friend of freedom," and it provides suggested questions that you might ask your local congressman. There's also a very helpful Google maps of upcoming town hall events. This kit brought to you by the head of FreedomWorks-of course, former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey.

In addition to fronting that group, Dick Armey is a senior policy adviser at a law firm called DLA Piper. DLA Piper just happens to have received $830,000 this year, so far, from a giant pharmaceutical firm called Medicines Company. This after the $1.5 million Medicines Company paid Mr. Armey's firm last year.

The fact that Dick Armey and FreedomWorks are standing alongside

regular Joes like Rick Scott to lead the charge against health care reform

could be just a coincidence. Or it could be a stark reminder of who we're dealing with here. Who is actively organizing the campaign against health care reform? Scaring real Americans with increasingly paranoid and kooky lies about health care and then providing a script for how to express that fear.

These are the pros, very well-compensated pros. They do this all the time. It's a P.R. industry. It's a lobbying industry. And they have a clear vested financial interest in seeing that the health care industry is not reformed-not now, not ever.

But the prospect of health care reform is up against, is a big, expensive corporate P.R. effort-and as I've said before, should be reported as such.

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