Thanks to John Holbo over at Crooked Timber for unearthing a gem from Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson's new book that shows Jack Abramoff's connection to the Medicare fiasco we now have on our hands.
Holbo found this nugget in Hacker and Pierson's book, Off Center: The Republican Revolution and the Erosion of American Democracy:
"When the debate over prescription drug coverage picked up in the late Clinton years, the pharmaceutical lobbying group PhRMA (Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association, pronounced “Farma”) went so far as to establish a faux grassroots organization that putatively represented the elderly: “Citizens for a Better Medicare.” Despite the lofty title, Citizens for a Better Medicare had few, if any, actual citizens on its rolls Its main activity was to spend millions of PhRMA dollars on slick ad campaigns supporting an industry-friendly drug plan. When Citizens for a Better Medicare came under fire, PhRMA switched its “grassroots” efforts over to the United Seniors Association, a conservative direct-mail organization that had cut its teeth with frightening scare letters to senior citizens. The United Seniors Association board included, among other GOP political operatives, Jack Abramoff..."
Holbo goes on to point out how such a "factoid" could be useful as Democrats seek to link the recent corruption scandals to the GOP's function as servant to powerful corporate interests. He's right, but to do this successfully, Democrats have to find a way to talk about corruption that helps voters understand that the GOP political machine stacks the deck against the interests of ordinary citizens. The ethics problems in Washington aren't just about "special interests," they're about "monied interests." So low-income senior citizens and their underfunded advocacy groups can't compete in the Medicare reform battle against the arm-twisting purchased by the pharmaceutical companies and delivered by the Republican Party.
I don't know if it will ever be possible to clean up the corruption in Washington. The connections to big business run too deep.