Lee Fang: Howard Dean Advises Corporate Health Care Clients To Fund ‘Both Sides,’ Run Attack Ads

This post is by investigative reporter Lee Fang.  Fang knows the ins and outs of DC corruption better than almost anyone else I’ve met.  Here he has documented one of the little noticed but important ways that money sluices in and out of our political system, and heavily influences policy.

One of the biggest problems with lobbying in Washington D.C. is the extent to which so many influence peddlers work behind closed doors, refusing to disclose their clients or register their work with the ethics office. Newt Gingrich became the poster boy for this phenomenon with the revelation that he was paid $1.6 million by Freddie Mac’s lobbying office, a fee the former Speaker laughably tried to downplay as part of a contract for “history” lessons. But Gingrich isn’t the only politician working as an unregistered lobbyist.  I have uncovered video that shows liberal icon Howard Dean discussing his government affairs work for corporate interests. 

Dean has been lobbying without disclosure for about three years. In 2009 after his stint as chairman of the Democratic Party, Dean joined the law/lobbying firm McKenna, Long & Aldridge as a non-attorney “Strategic Advisor.” The firm’s lobbying practice has a wide range of clients, from health care, to insurance, to even Keystone XL beneficiary TransCanada. The firm website says Dean “focuses on health care and energy issues, as well as providing expertise derived from his extensive experience in public office.” The firm seems to advertise Dean as a lobbyist, despite the fact Dean has not registered as a lobbyist.

I clipped a portion of a video posted online by McKenna, Long & Aldridge that features Dean discussing the post Citizens United campaign finance world along with former Republican Party chief, Michael Steele. Dean candidly disclosed that he works primarily with health care corporations, and that he advises that if they do contribute, they should contribute to both Republicans and Democrats:

DEAN: Even without the Citizens United decision, I’ve advised a lot of clients in the industries that I usually end up working with, which are mostly healthcare industries, not to give any money to either side, or if you do, give it to both sides because politicians really don’t know much about the issues. They really don’t. But believe me, they remember who gave money and they remember those ads. […] But they remember the ads, and they remember who was on whose side and who wasn’t, and it makes a big difference.

During the remarks, Dean later commented that he opposed the Citizens United decision because it creates the strong perception of government corruption for the public.

While it may sound surprising that a former Democratic Party chairman would encourage corporations to donate to Republicans, Dean’s advice makes sense considering his job as a paid consultant to the lobbying firm McKenna, Long & Aldridge. What’s more troubling, however, is how Dean uses his powerful platform as a pundit and political leader without disclosing his work as an influence peddler.

In the media, Dean is typically portrayed as a former governor and liberal political leader. When, for example, Dean called for killing health reform in 2009, using arguments that simply didn’t square with reality, he never disclosed that his lobbying firm was representing major health care interests that were impacted by the bill. Dean has also been linked to a lobbying effort to de-list the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK) as a State Department-recognized terrorist organization.

Other former office-holders, including Tom Daschle and Bob Dole, have joined lobbying firms as “consultants” and have violated the spirit of the ethics laws by refusing to register as lobbyists.

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About Matt Stoller

From 2011-2012, Matt was a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. He contributed to Politico, Alternet, Salon, The Nation and Reuters, focusing on the intersection of foreclosures, the financial system, and political corruption. In 2012, he starred in “Brand X with Russell Brand” on the FX network, and was a writer and consultant for the show. He has also produced for MSNBC’s The Dylan Ratigan Show. From 2009-2010, he worked as Senior Policy Advisor for Congressman Alan Grayson. You can follow him on Twitter at @matthewstoller.


  1. Greg Taylor

    I’m not sure what we expect our ex-politicians to do given their aspirations, training and skill sets. Influence peddling and monetizing their knowledge of the system shouldn’t be surprising. It’s just about the only way most have to stay in the game they know how to play.

    1. Up the Ante

      Surely you’ve erred in forming your subset of “ex-politicians” ?

      ringfenced govt.
      access by lobbying only
      insider trading

      “ex-” ??

    2. jake chase

      “while it may sound surprising that a former Democratic Party chairman would encourage corporations to donate to Republicans…” I stopped reading with that clause. Who can possibly be surprised what Democratic politicians will do, or Republican politicians either?

      Let’s all get out there now and elect that Democratic (Republican) savior! It’s so depressing these days trying to write fiction (and satire).

      The only political analyst ever to make sense was Emma Goldman. She did it in one sentence: “if elections changed anything they would stop holding them.”

      Thank goodness for another baseball season. Thank goodness even for Ozzie Guillen. I always thought he was Cuban. Nope, Venezuelan. Is he perhaps working for that Chavez? Is he here to sabotage the Marlins? Could he possibly make them any worse? What kind of id*** trades for a manager? What does he expect from a handful of guys from the American League whose last good season was 2005? Who is paying for that ballpark and what can be done with the 30,000 empty seats they are certain to have every night beginning in June (or perhaps May)?These are the serious public issues I am wrestling with right now.

      1. JamesW

        That crooked clown they elected governor of New Jersey, Gov. “three chins” Christie, spewed something about Americans being lazier than sin, etc., etc., ad nauseum.

        The problem is with those lazy-brained, unethical types who voted for Christie (R-con), or Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) — samo….samo…

        Cantwell has a 100% anti-American worker voting record (not to mention a 100% pro-war voting record), yet the very same types keep voting her into office — and there’s really no unique differences between Christie and Cantwell, excepting Christie’s name comes after hers in the alphabet.

        Cantwell says the corporations have to offshore all American jobs in order to compete — I state unequivocally that the only way America is to survive is to offshore the likes of Christie and Cantwell.

        Any questions?

  2. Travis Snickle

    Lauren Lyster and Jack Abramoff were together yesterday. If Tom Delay was put up on criminal money laundering charges, the information sluts within health and bankster inc would install more teflon, buy more process off, lawyer up, and of course, saturate the media with mucho propaganda. Which has all happened.
    Dean is sleeze, of course, hedging bets is nothing to the royals, it’s the m.o. and while the tragedy of one the world’s shittiest health care systems prevails, rest assured the DC cabal feels that this is the best way to conduct business as usual. It’s a big club, and you ain’t in it.

  3. Travis Snickle

    Watching Lyster is rich and compelling, but it sounded like Jack said stuff like this doesn’t matter, simply an Act of Posterity; cheap perfume of legitimacy:

    “Open Government Act of 2007, Sec 102, bans members of Congress and staffers from using their political power to influence the employment decision of any private entity “on the basis of partisan political affiliation”

  4. wunsacon

    Maybe he should register as a lobbyist. (I don’t know the laws regarding such.)

    But, what does he say here that is objectionable?

    1. Doobie Sisters

      ‘We need Howard Dean
      We need someone fresh and clean
      We need Howard Dean
      We need someone who can stand up and scream
      We need Howard Dean

      We need someone who will shout when Bush goes to war
      Yell when jobs are no more

      Scream when crony capitalists rule
      And all of America will vote for you.’

    2. Leverage

      Nothing except the political system is rotten and dysfunctional even if its supported by laws. So nothing new yeah.

    3. tom allen

      “I’ve advised a lot of clients in the industries that I usually end up working with, which are mostly healthcare industries”

      I suppose there’s nothing objectionable to that. Unless you object to graft.

    4. Enraged

      Funny. I had the same question…

      Many people scream and yell that money should be taken out of government and politics. If it came to pass, it means 0 private and corporate dollar going to either party. They’re on the same footing.

      Here, Dean advocates giving as much to either party. Again, they’re on the same footing.

      If we want to restore some equality and balance, does it really matter if it is by removing all the money or giving the same sum? The result is equality, regardless how achieved.

      What am i missing?

      1. jonboinAR

        The latter, corporations and their stooges making large political contributions, puts the politicians in their (the corporation’s) pockets. The result, stuff like our miserable health care system.

      2. alex

        “does it really matter if it is by removing all the money or giving the same sum”

        Yes. The Golden Rule: whoever has the gold makes the rules. By giving to both parties Special Interest X347 is bribing both parties, which is quite different from bribing neither. Special Interest X347 has the gold for those bribes – you and I don’t.

        Stop thinking D vs. R, L vs. R or any other false dichotomy. This is a clear indication that both sides are corrupt. There’s little difference between them because neither side represents you or me – both sides have been bought. Think of it as hedging your bribes.

        1. JamesW

          An even clearer indication as to the corruption of both sides:

          Those Wikileaked cables: which clearly demonstrate the absolute and abject corruption of all presidential administrations which they cover (Obama-Bush-Clinton, and so on).

          Bush administration fabricated Iraqi weapons-of-mass-destruction intelligence; Wikileaked cables expose the backroom politicking of the Obama administration to get their guy into the top position at the IAEA to fabricate the Iranian nuke data.

          No difference between either warmongering administration.

        2. Enraged

          Looking at it from that angle, of course you’re both right and I stand corrected. The question then becomes: how do we stop that influx of private money going to government, especially when we no longer are asked whether we want $1 to go to the election campaigns funds? If i recall, if was done away with a couple of years ago…

  5. ltr

    What a rotten person Dean has shown himself to be these last years. No principles, other than the necessity of becoming richer. Yuck!

  6. b.

    Dean is a textbook case of Yet Another Liberal Hero syndrome. Even I fell for him in 2004, when he was – unlike any other primary candidate at the time, and especially unlike the established stalwart of anti-war posture, Kerry – crazy enough to go on the record against Bush’s Doctrine of preventive (aka illegal, aggressive) war. I expected this to cost him the nomination (in retrospect, and with Obama 2008 in mind, that was utterly naive).

    These days, it looks more like Dean was auditing for the role that Obama was chosen for (Daschle, Kerry, 2004 convention). Nobody considered electable should be elected, ever.

    1. b.

      “I will tear up the Bush Doctrine. And I will steer us back into the company of the community of nations where we will exercise moral leadership once again.”

      He even sounds like Big O. I guess they figured the votes would sell for less, so this is one promise the Real Deal did not have to make’n’break.

    2. JamesW

      Thank you, b., I was suspicious originally of Dean when he was first running for president when he would recite that story of his brother having gone missing over in Southeast Asia.

      I had assumed his brother was either in the US military or with some type of humanitarian organization, but upon further research found out that he was some type of crazy dude who decided to hike around the most highly combative region in Southeast Asia, where multiple militias and drug cartels were heavily involved in killing one another, and any round eyes which showed up amongst them was as good as dead!

      What kind of idiot was Dean’s younger brother, and what kind of idiot would purposely misrepresent his death?

    1. Up the Ante

      “People will put their mother in microwave oven for money. Integrity is a dirty word today. ”

      The very essence of ‘Govt. gone native’.

    2. alex

      Guess that explains why I’d never go very far in politics. A cousin, maybe a brother, but my mom? Nah, gotta admit I’m a wimp who couldn’t do it.

    1. patricia

      Yeah, cuz this isn’t about government.
      Yeah, cuz it’s always either/or, never both.
      Yeah, cuz that which is closest to what you want, yet is not what you want, should be slammed in the coarsest way possible.
      Yeah, cuz anything big is best and anything small is pointless.

      Yeah, yeah, yeah.

      1. alex

        Well said. Dean’s style of “soft corruption” (things that are proably legal, like what Faust did) is the most insidious type of corruption precisely because it is legal.

  7. Strangely Enough

    “Dean has also been linked to a lobbying effort to de-list the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK)”

    Cough “material support” cough.

    If Dean were an anti-war protester, that could have serious consequences.

  8. Econ

    There is only one name to be attached to those who promote their immoral and selfish interests over the interests of the commonweal: enemy of the state.

    1. steelhead23

      I wish to weakly protest your assertion. We routinely expect lawyers to side with the bad guys. In fact, it is one of our core beliefs – innocent until proven guilty and defended by a competent lawyer. So, if murderers are to be defended by Johnny Cochran, why not have Dean defend the purveyors of death in our healthcare system? Maybe Dean is just sharpening his arguments by whoring for the bad guys.

  9. felix

    Wasn’t his man to the left of U.S. politics a few years ago, a Che Guevara of sorts north of Rio Grande? Wow, so this is how far things have gone overthere to the right.

  10. Doc's name then was something like Xqq

    A few years ago, Dean was considered to be left-leaning based on the viscous sounds crossing the fetid barrier of his perfect teeth. But everyone knows that politicians make all kinds of slobbery sounds when they speak. These sounds mean nothing and are no different from the sounds they make when defecating.

    It would never occur to us to attach importance to the sounds a politician makes when shitting, any more than we attach importance to their feces. Therefore why attach importance to the sounds they make when speaking?

    The best thing to do, whenever you see one of these unsavory creatures on the TV, is immediately press the mute button.

  11. albertchampion

    dean was a yalie. not in s&b, but another secret society: book and snake, perhaps?

    but all these yalie secret societies are anti-democracy. the members are all dedicated to the proposition that only the “elect” are entitled to rule and privilege.

    howard dean was always a fraud. as was john forbes kerry.

    as are the current crop of “spooks” running for the control of the usa.

    and there is really no solution to this short of tumbrils rolling through the place de la revolution to deliver the gangsters to the dr. there is no voting that will alleviate the fascism.

    and you might want to start shooting them before the DHS acquires its 450,000,000 rounds of dum-dum ammo. because the DHS recognizes where the citizenry will be driven, and how well armed they are.

    you might not want to recognize it, but just as the USA has declared war on iran, it has declared war on the citizenry.


  12. KJ Shaw

    “When, for example, Dean called for killing health reform in 2009,”….say, what?!?! Seems folks have forgotten his strong support for a public option via “Stand With Dr. Dean.” See:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzASZoU2obM (Click my linklet if this youtube URL gets scrubbed)

    As far as the MEK is concerned, this is an Iranian group living in exile in Iraq that the US promised to protect. Unfortunately, the US left Iraq and left the MEK to fend for themselves. Needless to say, they haven’t been fairing very well. It’s currently illegal to provide any financial or humanitarian support to these sworn enmies of the Iranian Islamic Revolution as long as they are on the list of terrorist groups, so in order for people in the US that abhor abandoning our commitments to help them is to get them off the list.

    Try to keep up with current (and past) events before you start smearing people. OK?

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