The Michigan arm of the insurance company Blue Cross Blue Shield is asking its employees to donate to the campaign of Gretchen Whitmer, the top-funded Democrat in the race for governor, The Detroit News reported on Wednesday. One of her opponents, who has received nationwide media attention for his left-wing politics and drawn comparisons to Barack Obama, supports single-payer.
Isn’t that weird!!!
The Whitmer campaign sent a letter, dated early this month, to BCBS employees, in conjunction with BCBS’ political action committee BluesPAC, asking employees to donate, complete with helpful suggested donation levels. If you’re a manager, you can get away with a measly $100, while “corporate officers” should try their best to shell out $2,500. The letter describes BCBS as playing “a major role in Michigan’s economy and the health of Michigan’s citizens” and notes that the “vibrancy of Michigan’s economic climate is driven by public policy put forward by our state’s Governor.” Translation: Whitmer will help us keep making money off sick people, so pony up.
Whitmer’s father, Richard, was also the head of Blue Cross Blue Shield in Michigan.
The company previously operated as a “benevolent trust” owned by the people of Michigan, but in 2013, Republican Governor Rick Snyder signed a bill turning it into a non-profit mutual insurance company. Despite being classified as a non-profit, the company still paid out $9.03 million in compensation to CEO Daniel Loepp Jr. in 2015, making him Crain’s highest-paid non-profit executive of the year. In fact, according to the business publication, “Loepp’s compensation rose from $3.86 million in 2012 to $6.67 million in 2013, $7.4 million in 2014, $9 million in 2015 and $10.9 million last year in 2016. That adds up to 182 percent growth in Loepp’s compensation over the past five years.” Gotta keep that gravy train flowing, baby! Whitmer 2018!
An ActBlue listing for a March 7 fundraising event is still available online, complete with the same suggested donation levels contained in the letter sent to employees.
Firebird Tavern has four stars on Yelp, so those wealthy healthcare execs can expect a good lunch.
It’s also worth noting that asking your employees to donate to the company PAC is perfectly legal and very common, as long as you don’t force them to donate and include the right legal language, but is it always easy to say no to your boss? In 2015, Reuters reported that employee donations to their boss’ political causes have skyrocketed.
The Democratic Party is currently struggling to figure out how to fight a historically unpopular president and a Republican Congress made up entirely of used diapers and snake’s buttholes; just yesterday, The New York Times reported that even the party’s brief advantage on the class warfare/tax bill is slipping. The Democrats cannot seem to figure out that people do not want a party that appears to only represent the wealthy, banks, and insurance companies to only a slightly lesser extent than the Republicans do. On healthcare, at least some Democratic senators and 2020 hopefuls have begun to make the more correct noises: Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Cory Booker both signed on to support Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-for-All bill. Why not Whitmer?
A request for comment from the Whitmer campaign has not yet been returned, but her spokesperson told The Detroit News that Whitmer has “built support from a large, broad coalition of people” and noted her support for Medicaid expansion. Medicaid expansion, by the way, doesn’t preclude insurance company’s profits in any way; on the contrary, the state is being accused of exhibiting “blatant favoritism” to BCBS Michigan in bidding for a $675 million contract to provide child dental services. The rival provider’s lawsuit alleges the bid was “a subterfuge to gain the benefit of BCBS’s political clout and name recognition in Michigan.”
Anyway, I’m sure if Whitmer wins the primary, Michigan voters will be just dying to vote for someone beloved by health insurance companies. Can’t wait for November!
Update, 1:12pm ET: Whitmer spokesperson Annie Ellison provided the following response to Splinter, which mirrors what the campaign told the Detroit News:
The campaign has built support from a large, broad coalition of people who are ready for a governor who will fix the roads, connect Michiganders to good-paying jobs, and put people first. As Senate Democratic Leader, Whitmer brokered the deal with a Republican governor to expand health care to 680,000 people through Medicaid expansion because she’ll work with everyone who wants to solve problems, and take on anyone who stands in our way to increase access to quality, affordable health care for every Michigander.