The hiring of Obama political guru David Axelrod’s “former” PR firm to promote Obamacare just got fishier.
As is already known, the firm Axelrod left to take a job in the White House, AKPD Message and Media, made millions after it was hired in 2009 by the “outside” coalition of pro-Obamacare health and labor groups to run ads supporting the initiative.
It was not such a “former” Axelrod firm. His son worked there, and he was continuing to receive money from it in annual installments to satisfy the terms under which AKPD had brought him out.
Now, Kim Strassel reports in the Wall Street Journal that AKPD officials working on Obamacare seemed to owe their allegiance to the White House, and the outside group, Healthy Economy Now, may have been taking orders from AKPD, not the other way around.
According to emails released by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, HEN was midwifed by White House aide Jim Messina – who now runs the Obama 2012 campaign – during a meeting he arranged for representatives of business and labor. And, Strassel writes, the ties between HEN and the White House remained solid:
In email after email, the contributors to HEN refer to four men as the “White House” team running health care. They included John Del Cecato and Larry Grisolano (partners at AKPD), as well as Andy Grossman (who once ran the DSCC) and Erik Smith, who had been a paid adviser to the Obama presidential campaign.
In one email, PhRMA consultant Steve McMahon calls these four the “WH-designated folks.” He explains to colleagues that Messrs. Grossman, Grisolano and Del Cecato “are very close to Axelrod,” and that “they have been put in charge of the campaign to pass health reform.”
Ron Pollack, whose Families USA was part of the HEN coalition, explained to colleagues that “the team that is working with the White House on health-care reform. . . . [Grossman, Smith, Del Cecato, Grisolano] . . . would like to get together with us.” This would provide “guidance from the White House about their messaging.”
The closeness of Axelrod and the White House to AKPD operatives suggests that the White House may have gotten exactly who it wanted running the show.
The White House response? Nothing to see here. Said White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest on Friday:
This was reported extensively two years ago that Mr. Axelrod was not involved in any way in the contract between AKDP and PhRMA on the issue of health care reform. And there’s nothing new that was reported in the Wall Street Journal or anywhere else that sheds anything — that sheds any new light on that.
This is the refrain that we’ll here constantly from the White House when anything new comes up about Obama: Been there, done that. Obama’s already been vetted, remember?
And the media which failed to properly vet him last time around will mostly concur.
But there’s more than enough new smoke here to suggest an investigation is in order into whether the following fire burns: Did someone at the White House – like say, David Axelrod – push for AKPD to be hired by these cash-rich outside groups, or did they somehow figure it out on their own?
As Strassel notes, the White House is supposed to avoid even the appearance on impropriety. And this looks very inappropriate.