Fox News correspondent Carl Cameron failed to disclose that former Sen. John Breaux (D-LA), who Cameron said "warns Democratic leaders now that trying too much too fast could backfire and undermine achievable [health care] reforms," has lobbied Congress this year about health reform for the trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). This is part of a pattern on Fox: On several occasions, Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich has been provided a forum to attack health care reform without disclosing that he reportedly profits from an organization that receives annual membership fees from health insurance companies.
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Cameron failed to identify Breaux as a health care lobbyist
Cameron noted only that Breaux is a "prominent Democratic centrist and former Louisiana senator." In providing Breaux a platform to urge Democrats to embrace less comprehensive health care reform, Cameron misled Fox viewers by failing to disclose that Breaux is a health care lobbyist. From Fox News' Special Report:
CAMERON: Prominent Democratic centrist and former Louisiana Senator John Breaux had misgivings about HillaryCare in the '90's and warns Democratic leaders now that trying too much too fast could backfire and undermine achievable reforms.
BREAUX: Half an apple is better than no apple at all and I think that that philosophy could help a lot of people get something done on health care reform. [Special Report 11/10/09]
Breaux lobbied Congress on health care reform for PhRMA this year
PhRMA paid Breaux $150,000 for health care reform lobbying. According to the Senate Disclosure Act Database, Breaux and former Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) lobbied both the House and Senate on "healthcare reform" during the third quarter of 2009 on behalf of PhRMA for a fee of $150,000 [Lobbying Report, 10/19/09]. Breaux and Lott represented PhRMA in their capacity as the heads of The Breaux Lott Leadership Group, which according to its website "offers strategic advice, consulting and lobbying to a wide range of clients."
Fox pattern: Network provided Gingrich cover to attack health care reform without disclosing conflict of interest
Gingrich's Center for Health Transformation receives annual membership fees from insurance groups. According to the center's website, members pay tiered annual membership fees, providing varying degrees of "[a]ccess to Newt Gingrich on your company's strategy," among other benefits. Insurance groups BlueCross BlueShield Association, UnitedHealth Group (the parent of UnitedHealthcare), and WellPoint Inc. are listed as "Charter" members, while the industry's trade association, America's Health Insurance Plans, is listed as a "Premier" member.
Gingrich has reportedly profited from his work with the center. In 2005, The New York Times described Gingrich as "a well-paid broker of ideas and influence in the field of health care policy" and reported that "[b]ase camp for Mr. Gingrich's health policy work is his Center for Health Transformation, a for-profit organization that occupies new office space overlooking K Street, the main street for Washington lobbyists." The Times also reported that the center's members "pay yearly fees of up to $200,000" [The New York Times, 1/16/05]. Further, The Washington Post reported in 2004 that according to Gingrich aide Rick Tyler, the center's for-profit status -- as opposed to being a registered as a nonprofit lobbying group -- enabled Gingrich to operate " 'under the radar.' " The article further quoted "former adviser Rich Galen" saying of Gingrich: "He's making more money than he ever thought possible and doesn't have to tell everybody where it's coming from" [The Washington Post, 7/13/04].
Conflicts hidden, Fox repeatedly provided Gingrich a platform to attack health care reform. For instance, Gingrich told Your World guest host Stuart Varney: "At the Center for Health Transformation, we're launching a petition drive to demand that if there's a public option every member of the House and Senate must belong to it that can be their only health plan. We think if they want to impose in the country that kind of disastrous plan, they ought to take the medicine first" [Your World with Neil Cavuto, 7/9/09, from Nexis]. Similarly, during the August 6 edition of Hannity, Gingrich said Democrats in the House "clearly want a big-government, Washington-centered, control-over-your-life model that would, over the next 10 or 12 years, eliminate the health system as we've known it and move us to a government plan" [Hannity 8/6/09, from Nexis]. On neither occasion was his conflict of interest disclosed.