In 1985, with three other individuals, David Axelrod started AKPD, a political/media consulting firm that caters to progressive candidates. The firm was in charge of President Barack Obama’s 2008 election, and after the election, Obama invited Axelrod to come on board as his Senior Advisor. AKPD was to buy out Axelrod’s stake in the company to remove the impression of impropriety for $2 million. AKPD did indeed buy out Axelrod’s share in the company – in installments, paid while Axelrod was working for Obama.
When Obamacare was working its way through Congress, an outside coalition called Healthy Economy Now, or HEN, was created and contracted AKPD to run ads in favor of Obamacare. HEN was comprised of labor groups including the SEIU, as well as the American Medical Association and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA.
As it turns out, HEN was actually the brainchild of then-White House aide Jim Messina and Sen. Max Baucus’ Chief of Staff. On April 15, 2009, they met with labor and business representatives at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and included someone from the SEIU. The job of PhRMA, the AMA, SEIU, and others, was not to run this new coalition. Their role was merely to fund it, as was told to an SEIU representative by Nick Baldick, who had worked on the Obama campaign, and had also worked for the DSCC. According to Kimberley Strassel at the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Baldick started HEN.
In 2009, according to a HEN spokesman, HEN hired AKPD for the Obamacare ad push. However, according to e-mails obtained by the WSJ, HEN was being run by Andy Grossman, a former employee of the DSCC, John Del Cecato and Larry Grisolano, partners at AKPD, and Erik Smith, a paid adviser for Obama’s 2008 Presidential campaign. Those individuals were allegedly responsible for the decision, not the coalition members themselves.
PhRMA consultant Steve McMahon referred to these individuals as the White House designees “close to Axelrod” that “have been put in charge of the campaign to pass health reform.” Ron Pollack, from Families USA, which was part of HEN, indicated in other e-mails that they were working with those individuals on health care reform. It appears that Families USA, like the other members of HEN, had limited involvement in the operations of the coalition.
Directly contrary to HEN’s own spokesman, and according to PhRMA’s own e-mails, AKPD was hired before it joined HEN. The only logical conclusion is that AKPD had already been decided on by the aforementioned two AKPD partners, then-White House aide, and DSCC staffers. PhRMA, like the other coalition members, merely came into the coalition to provide funding for an organization that had already been put in charge of the the ad campaign.
While it’s possible Obama wasn’t aware, White House visitor logs show Erik Smith and Andy Grossman coming to the White House a combined 45 times. Also, Del Cato and Grisolano from AKPD met with Axelrod at least twice.
In summary, while Axelrod was serving as Senior Advisor to the President and was still collecting a paycheck from the AKPD, AKPD was contracted by Administration employees and AKPD partners to run an ad campaign for Obamacare, under the guise of an outside group allegedly a coalition of PhRMA, the AMA, SEIU, and others, but was actually created by a former Obama campaign employee, and run by members of AKPD and the Administration.