Does David Axelrod Have A Financial Conflict Of Interest In The ObamaCare Debate?

David Axelrod may have some explaining to do according to this report:

Two firms that received $343.3 million to handle advertising for Barack Obama’s White House run last year have profited from his top priority as president by taking on his push for health-care overhaul.

One is AKPD Message and Media, the Chicago-based firm headed by David Axelrod until he left last Dec. 31 to serve as a senior adviser to the president. Axelrod was Obama’s top campaign strategist and is now helping sell the health-care plan. The other firm is Washington-based GMMB Campaign Group, where partner Jim Margolis was also an Obama strategist.

Hugh Hewitt notes there may be a significant conflict of interest in this arrangement:

The problem is that Axelrod’s former firm is currently receiving huge fees “from Healthy Economy Now, a coalition that includes the Washington-based Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America, known as PhRMA,” as well as AARP, the SEIU and other big players in the health care debate.
Axelrod was president and sole shareholder of AKPD from 1985 until he sold his interest after Obama’s victory, government records show. The firm owes Axelrod $2 million, which it’s due to pay in installments beginning Dec. 31. Axelrod’s son, Michael, still works there. He didn’t return a phone call. The firm’s Web site continues to feature David Axelrod’s work on the Obama campaign.

If Axelrod has been negotiating any part of any deal involving any of these players which are funneling money to the firm that owes him money, or if he is advising the president on the deals with any of these groups, that’s a conflict of interest. Laundering the money through a “coalition” doesn’t remove the conflict much less the appearance of impropriety. The coalition is in effect partially funding David Axelrod’s severance package though its members might have done so unknowingly. These forthcoming payments to Axelrod are much more significant than the sort of “retained ties” that Democrats blasted Dick Cheney for vis-a-vis Halliburton even though there was no high level negotiations between the vice president and his former company

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Axelrod owes voters an explanation. I eagerly await the Bush/Cheney/Halliburton inquisitor’s piercing questions. BTW, Elliot Spitzer put people in jail for this sort of thing.

Update: More from Politico:

Republicans are aggressively seeking to capitalize on the AKPD connection, and the House Republican Conference distributed a one-page talking points memo Tuesday asserting the White House-PhRMA deal raises “serious questions as to whether the drug lobby is helping to bankroll a multimillion dollar severance package for one of the President’s senior advisers.”

The memo points out that the drug industry will profit handsomely from the deal and asks whether Axelrod “recused himself from the PhRMA ‘deal,’ or will he work to defend an agreement with an industry that is directly funding his son’s work, and indirectly funding his own $2 million severance package?”

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