Kinder makes public the donors helping to fund his suit against federal health care changes
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 8, 2010 - Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder followed through with his promise late Thursday when he released the list of donors who have contributed to the fund set up to pay the legal costs of the suit he filed Wednesday against the federal government, claiming that its health-care changes violate states' rights.
The six-page list of donors shows that, all told, they gave just under $5,000. Most gave small amounts of $25 or $50. A majority hail from the St. Louis region, although there are a few out-of-state contributors.
None of the donors appeared to be prominent GOP activists.
The suit was filed Wednesday in federal court in Kinder's hometown of Cape Girardeau, Mo.
Among other things, the suit contends that Missouri will face higher costs because the federal government dramatically increases the number of people eligible for Medicaid, the health-care program for the poor.
Missouri covers only parents who earn no more than 19 percent of the federal poverty level (slightly under $2,800 of the federal level of $14,570 for a family of two.). Single individuals who are not parents, elderly or disabled cannot receive Medicaid in Missouri.
The new federal law raises the eligibility limit to 133 percent of the poverty level for all adults.
"Missouri, like many other states, is cash-strapped and cannot afford the huge financial burden of this bill," Kinder said this morning. "With this lawsuit, we are fighting to protect the freedoms and pocketbooks of Missourians."
The suit also cites Missouri's new law mandating insurance coverage of treatments for children with autism. Because the federal law doesn't require such coverage, Kinder asserts that the state will pay a penalty.
And in an interesting twist, the suit contends that Missouri taxpayers will have to pay more to provide insurance to Kinder and other state officials because of the federal requirements.
Kinder, a Republican, was joined in the suit by three Missourians who exemplify some of his key arguments: an elderly person who can no longer obtain the Medicare Advantage plan, the phased-out option that provided additional coverage but at a higher cost to the federal government; a young woman who didn't want some of the insurance mandated under the federal plan; and the mother of an autistic child.
The group's chief attorney is Thor Hearne, a St. Louis lawyer and veteran political activist who provided legal counsel to former President George W. Bush's administration and campaign.
The state Democratic Party immediately pounced on the fact that Kinder has yet to identify the private donors who he says will finance his lawsuit and Hearne's fees, so that the legal action won't cost taxpayers.
Democrats allege that Kinder already is using state dollars because his staff has been handling communications and other duties tied to the suit.
"After stonewalling the people of Missouri for months when asked who is funding his frivolous lawsuit, Peter Kinder has decided it is time to try to block health-care coverage for hundreds of thousands of Missourians,'' the state Democratic Party said in a statement.
"The real question that remains is: Who is helping him fund his frivolous lawsuit? For months he has refused to disclose his donors. Missourians deserve to know if Peter Kinder is allowing his office to be subsidized by the insurance industry and its lobbyists or candidates who want this law repealed."
Kinder says he does plan to publicly identify the donors later. A couple of weeks ago, he changed the corporate entity set up to collect the donations from a limited liability corporation (LLC) which doesn't have to identify its contributors, to a non-profit corporation (501C4) that will have to make them public. Kinder says he is in process of getting approval from the initial donors who gave to the LLC to make their names public.
Meanwhile, the state Republican Party lauded Kinder's action and sought to tie it to the Aug. 3 statewide vote on a ballot proposal -- crafted by GOP legislators -- that seeks to allow Missouri to opt out of the federal health-care law.
"Missouri Republicans have been at the forefront of protecting state sovereignty from the federal government’s onslaught of onerous regulations and mandates," said state GOP executive director Lloyd Smith. "Thanks to the General Assembly, Missouri voters will be the first in the nation to go to the polls and make their voice heard against the Obama-Pelosi-Reid health-care bill. And now, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder has taken legal action, alleging that the health-care bill violates the rights of Missourians from all walks of life."
Jo Mannies Beacon political reporter