House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called health insurers "the villains" in the unfolding story of the health care overhaul on Thursday, ratcheting up an anti-insurer theme trotted out by President Obama earlier this month and encouraged by other Democratic leaders in Congress.
"It is somewhat immoral what they are doing. Of course, they have been immoral all along how they have treated the people that they insure," MSNBC's Luke Russert quoted her as saying. "They are the villains in this."
Pelosi, of course, has accepted campaign contributions from said villains this year and in the past, as have most of her Democratic colleagues. Pelosi's campaign committee, for example, took $2,500 from AFLAC's political action committee on April 13. But she's not giving the money back just because she thinks the sources are immoral and villainous.
"As the Speaker's opposition to the health insurance companies being in charge of American's health care shows, there is no link between political contributions and positions on policy," said her spokesman Brendan Daly.
Besides, a quick look at her records suggests that health insurers make up a fraction of the money she accepts from the broader insurance industry and place her fairly low on the list of recipients — particularly given her longtime spot atop the Democratic Party — according to a study released earlier this year by the Center for Responsive Politics.
Pelosi ranked 55th among members of the 111th Congress in contributions from health insurers since the 1989-1990 election cycle, according to CRP, having taken in $186,750 (less than $20,000 per two-year cycle).
The real trick — as Ways and Means Chairman Charles B. Rangel, D-N.Y., has shown — is to turn your entire enemies list into your fundraising pool.
The targeting of insurance companies is a political natural, as Americans view them with great skepticism in polls. In one recent Gallup survey, only 4 percent of respondents chose insurers over doctors and hospitals, Obama and congressional Democrats, and congressional Republicans as the entity they most trust to reform the health care system.