Oh, what a tangled web politics weaves. The Colorado Observer recently reported that two of liberal (and under seige) Senator Mark Udall’s largest bundlers are lobbyists Andrew Woods and Ankit Desai, who have bundled $59,900 and $23,400, respectively for Udall. In fact, Udall is the fifth highest recipient of campaign contributions from lobbyists among all federal candidates. Peak Nation™, there are a lot of federal candidates – at least 535 (435 Representatives + 100 Senators), probably more like 1,000 federal candidates, so to be number five is kind of a big deal.
While Udall is desperate to portray himself as a true Coloradan, the fact that lobbyists from D.C. are among his top contributors might rub some Coloradans the wrong way. TCO got a quote from Russ Choma, spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics:
“In black and white, the (Udall) campaign is saying that it has a relationship with a registered lobbyist, a person who represent a lot of clients. You can see he represents a lot of health and dental companies. I think you should look at his list of clients and see if they’re necessarily in Colorado’s best interests. (Udall) also takes a lot of money from non-lobbyists. But this is black and white,” he said.
But, it gets better. Woods heads the lobbying firm Liberty Partners Group, headquartered in Washington, D.C. and represents none other than DaVita, a Denver dialysis firm. We’ve reported on DaVita’s forays into the political arena before – see here and here. But, that’s not why this story gets juicier.
In 2012, the company paid out $55 million dollars to settle a lawsuit that accused the company of overbilling Medicare for anemia medicine necessary for kidney dialysis patients. While the company acknowledged no wrongdoing in the settlement, the federal government was slated to receive 70 percent or $38.5 million of the settlement.
Then, this February, DaVita HealthCare Partners paid $389 million to settle a federal investigation involving criminal and civil “anti-kickback investigations and plans to end join ventures with kidney doctors involving 28 dialysis clinics”, according to The Denver Post.
Then, if you didn’t read the links we suggested above, it’s worth pointing out that Governor John Hickenlooper, Sen. Mark Udall, and DaVita CEO Kent Thiry all are represented by the same public affairs firm – the same one that ran the failed Amendment 66, the same one that represents the Connect for Health Colorado (Colorado’s Obamacare exchange).
So, what we’ve got here is Udall, one of the largest recipients of lobbyist dollars, taking money from a lobbyist who represents a company that’s been under federal scrutiny not once but twice in serious shenanigans charges, who shares a PR firm with the head of that company as well as the Governor. Folks, we’re not sure this could even get more incestuous and shady if we made it all up.