Monday, December 07, 2009

Congressional Tripping on Nonprofit Nickels

The Jack Abramoff scandal inspired Congressional rule changes on sponsored travel. A New York Times study finds a new middleman for junkets, nonprofit companies. It reported:

Seizing on the loopholes, lobbyists and the companies that employ them are still underwriting trips by dozens of members of Congress, particularly those in the House, the Times review shows. The companies finance much of this travel indirectly, getting around the spirit of the rules by giving money to nonprofits, some of which seem to exist largely to sponsor trips. In fact, the rules may have had the unexpected effect of obscuring who is actually paying for a lawmaker’s junket.

If Wall Street and big Pharma can set up captive nonprofits for Congressional travel, think what WellPoint, UnitedHealth and Humana can do with a "nonprofit" public option under health reform. One controls a nonprofit with start up money, initial board appointment and ongoing operating funds.

What happened with ethics reform can happen in health care. It's not the least bit unexpected. The role of 527 nonprofits in campaign spending is just as disturbing.

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