A key figure involved in designing the president’s signature health insurance mandate referred to as Obamacare has left her role at the White House to work for one of the very companies profiting off the bill she helped create.
Elizabeth Fowler will be leaving her role as the special assistant to the president for healthcare and economic policy at the National Economic Council and joining pharmaceutical giants Jonson & Johnson. The Washington, DC newspaper POLITICO confirmed on Wednesday afternoon that Fowler is leaving her position on Pennsylvania Avenue for “a senior-level position leading ‘global health policy’” at the pharma company’s government affairs and policy group.
While Fowler’s exit from the White House is but one more entry on the list of Obama staffers that have traded in their executive office access for a lobbying role, her use of the every-spinning revolving door is of particular significance since she is likely to benefit directly from the very legislation she helped create.
“If you drew an organizational chart of major players in the Senate health care negotiations, Fowler would be the chief operating officer,” POLITICO’s Carrie Budoff Brown wrote in 2009.
When Fowler was profiled by the paper at the time, she was described as a key player in health care discussions, and not just under President Barack Obama either. POLITICO notes she worked from 2001 through 2005 with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) while he negotiated the Medicare Part D prescription drug program in Washington. During the second George W Bush administration, she left politics to pursue a position in the private sector, only to rejoin Baucus in 2008 to construct what became known as Obamacare.
“People know when Liz is speaking, she is speaking for Baucus,” Dean Rosen, health policy adviser to former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), told POLITICO at the time.
As the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald reports this week, Baucus was the “key legislator” involved in drafting the bill, which he himself went on the record to thank Fowler for.
“Liz Fowler has put my health care team together,” Baucus said in a 2010 interview obtained by Fire Dog Lake. “Liz Fowler worked for me many years ago, left for the private sector, and then came back when she realized she could be there at the creation of health care reform because she wanted that to be, in a certain sense, her profession lifetime goal. She put together the White Paper last November–2008–the 87-page document which became the basis, the foundation, the blueprint from which almost all health care measures in all bills on both sides of the aisle came.”
Greenwald notes that the aforementioned position that preceded Fowler’s first term under Baucus was with WellPoint as a vice president for public policy and external affairs, which the journalist describes in his own words as “informal lobbying.” Now that she has announced her departure from the White House and a new role with Johnson & Johnson, Greenwald notes that Fowler has once again favored the revolving door mechanism that has been all too favored by the Obama administration.
“The pharmaceutical giant that just hired Fowler actively supported the passage of Obamacare through its membership in the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America lobby,” Greenwald writes.
“Indeed, PhRMA was one of the most aggressive supporters — and most lavish beneficiaries — of the health care bill drafted by Fowler.”
Upon election, Pres. Obama insisted that his administration would be careful not to hire former lobbyists or allow employees to trade in their White House roles lobbying positions. Despite this promise, however, Fowler is one of more than a few who has demonstrated the administration’s reluctance to rely on that rule.