Now that the smoke is beginning to clear about the last days of the Obama administration, Americans are finally starting to see what was truly going on. Claims of wiretapping, hidden government records, and deliberate sabotage attempts prove that Barack Obama never intended to leave quietly and gracefully. Now, for a man who boasted that he had an eight year presidency without a single scandal, here we go again.
The New York Post reported that in 2016 Obama spent more than $77 million for a full out marketing campaign to promote ObamaCare. The lion’s share of this was paid to public relations firm Weber Shandwick, for the “Health Insurance Exchange Public Education and Outreach Campaign.”
Between July and September, the government bought $64 million in radio, television and online advertising. For creative development, the former president’s team paid out $4 million, and $5 million for a direct response campaign. Then $2 million went to campaign strategy for the health care act and another $1 million to branding. $1.5 million was spent to encourage small businesses to enroll in the program. All of this for a flawed program. Not to mention, when he bought the ads, he only had six months left in his presidency. For six months of public relations services, he spent $77 million. An unnamed White House official told the New York Post that it was all a desperate move to get the numbers up before the end of an era.
“Tens of millions in hard-earned taxpayer funds spent on TV ads won’t sell a fundamentally flawed approach to health care,” the official told The Post.
Not to mention, the $36 million the former president spent in legal fees for his refusal to turn over federal records under the Freedom of Information Act. The so-called, “most-transparent administration in history,” received 788,769 requests for information. For 77% of the requests, people received either censored records or no records at all. The White House also spent $478 million answering them and employing extra staff to handle the requests.
The government’s contract with Weber Shandwick was a one-year contract signed in July 2016, lasting until July 2017. So far the company has spent $77 million but they are budgeting for over $86 million by the time it is all through. However, the Department of Health and Human Services pulled about $4 million in advertising after the inauguration.
“We aren’t going to continue spending millions of taxpayers’ dollars promoting a failed government program,” a Health and Human Services Department spokesman told CNN.
CNN reported that the remaining money would be returned to the U.S Treasury. With the ObamaCare repeal taking place, enrollment numbers have dipped. In the open enrollment period ending last month, only 9.2 million Americans signed up, almost half a million less than February of last year. Not only was the public campaign overpriced and promoting a known flawed product, it also proved ineffective in the end.
The public relations firm Weber Shandwick has removed their website, so details on their firm are unclear. They are known for being, “democratic leaning.” They did the PR for the original rollout of ObamaCare in 2013, for which the Department of Health and Human Services paid $40 million. The company’s chairman, Jack Leslie, was appointed to the U.S African Development Foundation by Obama in 2009, and he was sworn in again in 2016. He will remain until 2019. He is an avid democratic supporter, having donated $1,000 to Obama’s re-election bid and $2,700 to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Revelations of the expenditures came this week when concerns about the replacement plan were voiced.
“The bill probably can be fixed, but it’s going to take a lot of carpentry on that framework,” Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton told host George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week.” “As it’s written today, this bill in the House of Representatives cannot pass the Senate. And I believe it would have adverse consequences for millions of Americans. and it wouldn’t deliver on our promises to reduce the cost of health insurance for Americans.”
Called the American Health Care Act, House Representatives have been scrambling to get something together before Congress breaks in April. Cotton urged fellow Congress members to “slow down,” and not “walk the plank,” of sending a faulty bill to the floor.
“I’m afraid that if they vote for this bill, they’re going to put the House majority at risk next year,” he said. “I just do not think that this bill can pass the Senate. And, therefore, I think the House should take a pause and try to get as close as we can to a good result before they send to it the Senate.”
The ObamaCare debacle is just a mess and it is doubtless any one group of people can fix it. But everyone, including Obama himself, knew in 2016 that the plan needed work. He still spent tens of millions of dollars to promote something that wasn’t working just to save his pride and legacy. All the while, the presidential campaign swirling around him talked of a solution.