Former Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota both lost their re-election bids last November in states that overwhelmingly went for Donald Trump in 2016. Last month, Axios reported that the two were starting something called the “One Country Project,” which purported to teach Democrats how to talk to “rural voters” again.
As I pointed out at the time, Donnelly himself largely got crushed in rural areas while performing best in Indiana’s big cities and college towns. And both Donnelly and Heitkamp lost while running campaigns oriented toward conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans and against the more liberal national party. These are our supposed experts in the ways of the Rural Voter.
A new report in the Intercept, however, sheds some light on where Donnelly and Heitkamp’s group is getting its money—and surprise surprise, it’s from the most ghoulish anti-Medicare for All group out there. Per the Intercept (emphasis mine):
Records show the One Country Project’s website is registered to an executive at Forbes Tate Partners, a lobbying and public relations firm founded by former Clinton administration officials. The lobbying firm is leading the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future (PAHCF), the health industry-backed nonprofit created to crush momentum for a comprehensive universal health care system.
Heitkamp has used the launch of the One Country Project as an opportunity to speak out against Medicare for All. “Polling indicates that most Americans are satisfied with the health care they receive and do not want their coverage options taken away and replaced with a one-size-fits-all government program,” she wrote in a Washington Post op-ed last week that echoed PAHCF talking points.
The One Country Project’s website is registered to Elizabeth Gonzalez, the director of operations and development at Forbes Tate. Lauren Crawford Shaver, a Forbes Tate partner who worked on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, is PAHCF’s executive director and has been the group’s public face. Forbes Tate formally registered to lobby for PAHCF last month.
Neither the senators, the lobbying firm, nor the One Country Project organization responded to the Intercept’s requests for comment. We have also reached out to One Country and Forbes Tate and will update if we hear back.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that PAHCF talking points are ending up in the Washington Post; as we reported back in March, PAHCF passed off op-eds in local papers by lobbyists and Republican activists as “voices throughout the nation” without noting their political activities.
Nor should it be surprising that this is how Donnelly and Heitkamp are choosing to spend their post-Senate careers in the era of Donald Trump; Donnelly’s last ad during his re-election campaign featured him saying Medicare for All would be passed “over my dead body.” Heitkamp, meanwhile, argued in her Post op-ed that Medicare for All “threatens to close rural hospitals and limit patients’ access to vital services.” (Had her op-ed been held for a few days, she would’ve gotten a chance to read it alongside this story about how rural hospitals are already in shambles.)
But if anything, this is just another example of how conservative Democrats are not really the ally of anyone on the left, or even the center-left, when it comes to an issue like healthcare. People in poor communities in rural America—just like poor people in the rest of the country—are already dying for a simple reason: there’s no profit to be made by helping them.
The only way to fix that problem permanently is by removing the profit motive entirely—and that involves making organizations like the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future obsolete.