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And Here We Thought Gov. Haley Was Acting In Good Faith

From The Post & Courier:

Haley dictated panel finding

Outcome ordered before health committee met

By Renee “Little Girl” Dudley

rdudley@postandcourier.com

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gov. Nikki Haley dictated the conclusions of a committee charged with deciding how the state should implement federal health care reform before the group ever held its first meeting, public documents show.

Now, some of those involved in the dozens of meetings are calling the entire planning process a sham that wasted their time and part of a $1 million federal grant.

In a March 31 email thread that included Haley, her top advisers and the committee member who eventually wrote the report, Haley wrote, “The whole point of this commission should be to figure out how to opt out and how to avoid a federal takeover, NOT create a state exchange,” which is eventually what happened.

A central part of the federal health care overhaul, an exchange is a marketplace where various insurance plans eventually will be sold.

The emails were released to the newspaper Friday afternoon in response to a Nov. 16 public records request to the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

The newspaper had made a nearly identical request of the governor’s office in May, but the office did not include the emails in its response.

The documents show a first-term Republican administration focused on public perception of its handling of the Democratic health care reform law. They also reveal the tight control Haley and her top aides exercise over other state agencies, requiring media inquiries to various state departments to pass through the governor’s office for inspection.

“Oh my God, we just threw $1 million away here,” said Frank Knapp, who participated in the meetings as president of the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce. “This confirms this whole thing was an effort to justify the million-dollar grant, but the reality is they had no intention of even exploring whether the state should establish an exchange — which is exactly what the grant called for.” Continue reading

ACA Opponents Wine & Dine Justices Scalia, Thomas

From The Los Angeles Times:

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia speaks to a policy forum in Washington last month. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

By James Oliphant

November 14, 2011

The day the Supreme Court gathered behind closed doors to consider the politically divisive question of whether it would hear a challenge to President Obama’s healthcare law, two of its justices, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, were feted at a dinner sponsored by the law firm that will argue the case before the high court.

The occasion was last Thursday, when all nine justices met for a conference to pore over the petitions for review. One of the cases at issue was a suit brought by 26 states challenging the sweeping healthcare overhaul passed by Congress last year, a law that has been a rallying cry for conservative activists nationwide.

The justices agreed to hear the suit; indeed, a landmark 5 1/2-hour argument is expected in March, and the outcome is likely to further roil the 2012 presidential race, which will be in full swing by the time the court’s decision is released.

The lawyer who will stand before the court and argue that the law should be thrown out is likely to be Paul Clement, who served as U.S. solicitor general during the George W. Bush administration.

Clement’s law firm, Bancroft PLLC, was one of almost two dozen firms that helped sponsor the annual dinner of the Federalist Society, a longstanding group dedicated to advocating conservative legal principles. Another firm that sponsored the dinner, Jones Day, represents one of the trade associations that challenged the law, the National Federation of Independent Business.

Another sponsor was pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc, which has an enormous financial stake in the outcome of the litigation. The dinner was held at a Washington hotel hours after the court’s conference over the case. In attendance was, among others, Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s top Republican and an avowed opponent of the healthcare law.

The featured guests at the dinner? Scalia and Thomas. Continue reading

Will Clarence Thomas Recuse Himself From ACA Case?

From The Nation:

Clarence and Ginni Thomas

By George Zornick

November 14, 2011

Today, the Supreme Court agreed to hear constitutional challenges brought on by twenty-six states and a business group to President Obama’s healthcare reform bill. There will likely be arguments in the spring and a ruling by July, right in the heat of the presidential election.

This is a good time to recall that seventy-four members of Congress have signed a letter asking Justice Clarence Thomas to recuse himself from any ruling on the Affordable Care Act because of his wife’s work as a conservative activist and lobbyist, where she specifically agitated for the repeal of “Obamacare.” The recusal effort was spearheaded by Representative Anthony Weiner, and his resignation in June slowed the momentum around this issue on Capitol Hill—but there’s still ample evidence for concern. Continue reading

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