Healthcare industry lobbyists connected with the Republican establishment in Washington are making a concerted effort to sink the campaign of the Nebraska Republican who has been branded the “anti-Obamacare candidate,” Breitbart News has learned.
Ben Sasse, a young university president the National Review recently hailed as “Obamacare’s Cornhusker Nemesis,” has overcome a monumental deficit and is now running neck-and-neck against Navy veteran Shane Osborn in Nebraska’s GOP primary. The centerpiece of Sasse’s campaign has been his deep background knowledge of the health care industry and what he describes as “small-government, patient-centric solutions to fix our broken health care system.”
“The same way Elizabeth Warren can galvanize an issue on the left, Ben Sasse is going to do on the right. And he’s got the health insurance companies and their shameless crony capitalism in his sights,” one person close to Sasse told Breitbart News. Aside from the National Review cover, he has received praise from the Tea Party as well as both statewide GOP organizations and members of Congress.
While both candidates have expressed opposition to provisions in Obamacare, Sasse has experience as a public health professional, having served as U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health & Human Services under President Bush.
Standing athwart Sasse are people connected to healthcare giant UnitedHealth, which stands to make millions of dollars from the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The corporation has noted that 2014 outlooks are “optimistic” even as it reduces services, because it will simultaneously be providing less care while millions are forced to buy its product because of Obamacare. After the release of improved Obamacare enrollment data last week, UnitedHealth’s stock made the biggest stride in the stock market, climbing more than 3.2% on Friday.
Though UnitedHealth has not donated to either Sasse or his opponent, former Mitch McConnell Chief of Staff and current UnitedHealth lobbyist Billy Piper has thrown his support behind Osborn. RedState’s Erick Erickson notes that Piper hosted a fundraiser for Osborn along with two of his colleagues from Fierce, Isakowitz, and Blalock, a firm that lobbies on behalf of UnitedHealth – Kate Hull and Kirk Blalock. UnitedHealth has donated heavily to McConnell.
When news broke that the Senate Conservative Fund endorsed Sasse – a rival group to the the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), McConnell’s political arm – the minority leader was reportedly infuriated.
While the NRSC told Breitbart News that it is neutral in the race and has allowed Sasse to fundraise there, observers like Erickson argue that it is working behind the scenes for Osborn. “At the start of 2014, we find McConnell’s former Chief of Staff, his lobbying friends, and the NRSC helping Ben Sasse’s opponent,” Erickson wrote at RedState last month. “All because conservative groups McConnell does not like are supporting Ben Sasse.”
One K-street insider told Breitbart News that Piper is practically going door-to-door discouraging lobbyists from helping Sasse. Piper and Osborn himself, the source reports, are telling lobbyists the Senate Conservative Fund supports Sasse and that “he is just like Ted Cruz.” “Everybody knows that Osborn will play ball in DC and Ben will not,” the source claims. The insider said that while he doesn’t know whether Piper is working against Sasse as a favor to McConnell or as a benefit to UnitedHealth, he is certainly “pulling out all the stops” to slow the campaign.
Piper himself tells Breitbart News his support for Osborn has nothing at all to do with Sasse – it’s simply support for Osborn.
“I am honored to personally support Shane Osborn. He is a proud dad, a combat veteran, a decorated American Hero, the only candidate in the race with a proven conservative record as a statewide elected official, a job creator, and a man who is steadfast in the commitment our country made to all veterans. It’s really a no-brainer why he is so well respected in Nebraska,” Piper said.
Piper’s firm has been paid almost $2 million in 2013 for lobbying for companies that are implementing the Affordable Care Act, according to records at the Senate’s Lobbying Disclosure Act Database, in addition to his work for UnitedHealth Group.
Sasse does not see this relationship between insurance companies and the establishment GOP as a new development. “When Big Insurance rolled over for the Administration, that was it,” he told Breitbart News. “The desire for government-delivered customers, rather than competing to serve patients, is a core reason we have this mess.” He cites UnitedHealth Group as a prime offender. “Nobody has made more money off Obamacare than UnitedHealth,” he notes. “It’s just another example of the incestuous relationship between health insurers and the permanent establishment.”