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October 07, 2014

HCSC Lobbyist Unmasked As American Action Network Donor

By Carrie Levine

AANIt’s becoming clearer and clearer that the American Action Network’s (AAN) multi-million dollar political ad campaign against lawmakers who supported health care reform legislation was paid for by health insurers.

The latest health insurance company with ties to the conservative nonprofit: Illinois-based Health Care Service Corp. (HCSC). AAN is not required to reveal the identities of its donors or how much they contributed, but during a deposition taken as part of a court case, a former AAN official confirmed Theresa Doyle, HCSC’s chief government relations officer, was a donor. The court filings, reviewed by CREW, don’t say how much Ms. Doyle contributed to AAN, when she contributed, or whether she did so on behalf of herself or the company.

In the March 11, 2014 deposition tied to a lawsuit AAN filed against a former vendor, Cater America, an event planning company, AAN’s former director of development, Pete Meachum, was asked about an e-mail listing guests AAN wanted to bring to a meet-and-greet with musician Kid Rock. Ms. Doyle was on the list, prompting the following exchange between Cater America’s lawyer and Mr. Meachum:

Q: Okay. How about Theresa Doyle?

A: She’s with HCSC.

Q: Which stands for what?

A: Healthcare (sic) Service Corporation.

Q: Is that a trade association? Corporation? Business?

A: It’s a healthcare service corporation. It’s a business, yes.

Q: And was she a donor to AAN?

A: She was.

Q: Excuse me?

A: She was.

Mr. Meachum was questioned about several other names, but did not describe anyone else as a donor. It appears, however, that at least two of the other people Mr. Meachum was asked about during the deposition—Melissa Bartlett and Amanda Weaver—are also employees of HCSC. Mr. Meachum said he believes Ms. Bartlett works for Ms. Doyle, but that he didn’t know Ms. Weaver. Secret Republican Governors Association documents uncovered by CREW last month, however, list Amanda Weaver as a senior director of government relations and external partnerships for HCSC.

AAN is one of a host of politically oriented nonprofits that sprang up in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that have collectively poured hundreds of millions of dollars into federal elections, all while keeping their donors anonymous. HCSC is the second major health insurer CREW has found with ties to AAN. In June 2012, CREW obtained regulatory filings from health insurance giant Aetna on which the insurer mistakenly revealed contributing $3.3 million to AAN in 2011. Aetna’s support for AAN’s attacks on President Obama’s health care reform proposal came after the company’s president said he supported the legislation.

HCSC similarly voiced support for the health care overhaul. Patricia Hemingway Hall, HCSC’s president and CEO, said shortly before the final passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 the company “supports health care reform that will increase access to quality health care and improve the overall health of Americans.” In contrast, during the 2010 election cycle, AAN spent roughly $19 million on ads, many of which blasted health care reform and supported Republican candidates, and during the 2012 election cycle, it spent $11.7 million.

HCSC has since reported lobbying on issues related to the implementation of health care reform, among a series of other issues. Owned by policyholders, HCSC has posted record net profits since 2009. A benefits administration company sued the company in May, accusing it of stockpiling profits beyond what is necessary for financial stability and paying out too much in executive bonuses.

AAN sued Cater America, LLC and its owner, Robert Wayne Jennings, for $350,000 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in December 2012. Cater and AAN had worked together to throw events during the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, including concerts by Journey, Kid Rock, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. AAN claims it’s owed a refund because a hurricane forced the cancellation of the Lynyrd Skynyrd concert and says it loaned Mr. Jennings money that was never paid back. Mr. Jennings and Cater dispute AAN’s claims, and have countersued. The case is still pending.

Between HCSC and Aetna, anyone who is looking for more of AAN’s donors should probably check the corporate name on their health insurance card.

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