While state lieutenant governor races don't usually make big news, Missouri's race is slightly different. The Republican primary between incumbent Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and MO State Senator Brad Lager has intensified, with Lager dropping cash on a heavy media campaign that some have questioned for content accuracy. It's big money to spend for a state-wide race, but money comes easy when corporations who receive federal bailouts from the 2009 Stimulus and Obamacare help to fund your campaign.
Cerne is a huge corporation based in Kansas City. It specializes in digital health records, a booming business. While Cerner's industry is an industry with high potential, the fact that Cerner apparently benefited from what amounts to a federal bailout via the stimulus (the portion of the law which dealt with health care tech) while independent businesses struggle, has angered some. Via the KCStar:
While other big Kansas City corporations struggle in a shifting economy -- YRC Worldwide Inc., Sprint Nextel Corp., H&R Block Inc., Hallmark Cards Inc. see both their payrolls and their public profiles receding -- Cerner seems only to get bigger and bolder.
In 2011, revenues for Cerner rose by almost a fifth over the previous year to hit $2.2 billion. Its stock has split five times, and its market capitalization tops $14 billion.
Neal Patterson, Cerner's CEO and five-time winner of Modern Healthcare's "100 Most Powerful People In Healthcare," was recently featured on the cover of Forbes under the headline "Obamacare Billionaire."
"Over the past five years sales have grown an annualized 9% and earnings 22%. Last year the company booked $307 million in profits on sales of $2.2 billion. Since Patterson started Cerner in 1979 it has been consistently profitable, and shares have increased at an annualized 22% since a 1986 IPO. That’s 11% better than the S&P 500 over that 26-year span. The appreciation of Cerner’s shares has made the frugal Patterson a very rich man. His Cerner stake is worth $1 billion.
"Patterson’s innovations in computing and data storage certainly helped fatten that number. But Washington, especially President Barack Obama, has given him a healthy boost. As the rest of the economy floundered, Cerner boomed, thanks to a 2009 law that was Obama’s first foray into health care. The Health Information Technology for Economic & Clinical Health (HI TECH) was a $19 billion part of the 2009 stimulus bill designed to create new jobs. This bipartisan effort—even stimulus basher Newt Gingrich lobbied for it—aims to entice and then punish hospitals into finally going digital."
Lager's job with Cerner is officially titled as a "senior strategic analyst" in Cerner's Government Affairs section, though he's been accused by some of being a lobbyist for Cerner while simultaneously serving as a State Senator.
Lager received in 2008 more in donations from Cerner than any other candidate in the country, to the tune of $51,850. Before his lawsuit on Obamacare, Kinder had received $2,700. Neal Patterson's wife, Jeanne Patterson, also donated $100,000 to Lager this year. (Sidenote: Lager received $23k from Jeanne Patterson in 2004 for working on her failed campaign.)
Lager's own writings do nothing to dispel the buzz that his job with Cerner would influence his job as Lt. Governor of Missouri since many seem to think it already has his time as a State Senator. Gallatin North Missourian:
We must encourage private sector solutions that improve inefficency and advance patient care.
We must get government out of the way so that consumers and their providers can create a system to deliver the services consumers demand at a price they can afford
This all sounds good--and it is exactly what Lager's employer, Cerner, does, until you realize that people paying for such services from Cerner have actually paid twice: Once for the stimulus which Cerner received, and again for the actual services themselves. That's not a private sector solution, it's not even crony capitalism -- that is neo-mercantilism.
Cerner also advertises for both the stimulus and Obamacare on its website:
Is Lager a lobbyist for Cerner? How can Lager claim to be the conservative choice in his ads while running a campaign partially financed by the stimulus, spurred on by Obamacare? Does Lager share the eagerness of his top donor (as evidenced above) to absorb taxpayer dollars from Obama and big spending Democrats? To whom do Lager's loyalties lie? Has Lager ever discussed Cerner's brief here with elected lawmakers -- and if so, why has he not registered as a lobbyist?
At Cerner, we recognize that our success is rooted in the value of automating the healthcare process, and we are pleased to see that the Obama Administration and Congress understands an investment in healthcare information technology (HIT) benefits the entire U.S. economy.”
Does Lager agree with his top donor and how can Missouri voters be assured that Brad Lager has their best interests at heart?