It wasn't 'a mistake' when Santorum gave your money to his corporate cronies


If you're a Republican running for president in 2012, "sorry" seems to be the easiest word. Once upon a time, it would have been a big deal for a White House wannabe to kick off his campaign with an apology, but now with the GOP it's just background noise. Newt Gingrich is sorry that he loved his country so much and worked such long hours that he had to cheat on his wife; Tim Pawlenty (whose apology is a lot less interesting...par for the course) is sorry he once agreed with 90 percent of the world's experts on climate change. What's the deal? Some of the groveling is just the remarkable weakness of the Republican field, while some of it is the craziness of the far right that is forcing GOP candidates to feel sorry for believing things that make sense -- like that global warming is real.

So it was easy to shrug it off on a busy Eastern weekend when former Pa. Sen. Rick Santorum, a likely 2012 presidential candidate, went on the friendly confines of Fox News Channel -- where he was a paid contributor until recently -- to issue HIS apology, for supporting the 2003 Medicare drug plan that added hundreds of billions of dollars to the federal debt that conservatives like Santorum have now made Public Enemy No. 1.

Here's what Santorum said on FNC:

In addressing his support for the legislation in question in 2003, the presidential aspirant said Republicans did two things wrong with the entitlement program.

"Number one, we made it universal," he said. "In other words, we had a problem that was about 15 percent of seniors didn't have prescription drugs. And we -- and the president compromised with the Democrats, President Bush, to provide a universal benefit."


The second thing Santorum said members of his party did wrong was not funding the entitlement program. "That was not an option on the table at the time that we were voting for it," he explained.

Oh. So in other words, given a choice between a major increase in the federal debt, and offering drug benefits to seniors, Santorum voted for the drug benefit. Why? For one thing, federal aid to seniors to buy medicine is understandably a popular thing, and Santorum -- having alienated Pennsylvania voters for most of his second term -- needed every ounce of popularity going into the 2006 election (he got trounced, anyway). But more importantly, Medicare Part D is a program in which the billions that come from taxpayers pass through seniors but the profits ultimately end up with Big Pharma.

And nobody was a bigger waterboy in the U.S. Senate for Big Pharma than Rick Santorum.

I'll back that up in a second, but first lets look at how Santorum and the majority of his fellow Republicans, who controlled both houses of Congress in 2003, worked with President Bush to enact a bill that allowed the big drug companies to make billions in excess profits, all at taxpayer expense and not to any benefit of elderly Americans:

WASHINGTON -- U.S. drug manufacturers are reaping a windfall from taxpayers because Medicare's privately administered prescription drug benefit program pays more than other government programs for the same medicines, a House committee charged in a report Thursday.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform found that taxpayers are paying up to 30% more for prescription drugs under Medicare's privatized Part D program for seniors and the disabled than under the government's Medicaid program for the poor.

"Medicare Part D has given the major drug companies a taxpayer-funded windfall worth billions of dollars,"said committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills).

Those excess profits, of course, made it easier for Big Pharma to fund Santorum's campaigns and spend a small fortune lobbying him and his colleagues on Capitol Hill.

Exhibit A:

From 1993 through May 15, 2006, Santorum-controlled political committees, including his committees for his House and Senate campaigns, as well as his “leadership PACs,” accepted $461,083 in contributions from pharmaceutical PACs....(while) employees of pharmaceutical companies contributed at least $120,192 to Santorum’s committees for the House and Senate, as well as his leadership PACs.

So you say campaign donations don't prove anything? Maybe Exhibit B will convince you:

A post-election e-mail to executives at the drug company GlaxoSmithKline details just how tough. "We now have fewer allies in the Senate," says the internal memo, obtained by The Washington Post....The defeat of Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) "creates a big hole we will need to fill," the e-mail says.

But now that the debt trumps (no pun intended) all other issues, Santorum is here to coyly say it was all "a mistake." What a hypocrite! Listen to this expert writing not long ago during the debate on broader health care reform:

Of course, there are good reasons conservatives oppose expanding the government, as the pending health legislation would do, even if it adds nothing to the deficit. But anyone who voted for the drug benefit, especially someone who switched his vote to make its enactment possible, has zero credibility. People like (Rep. Trent) Franks (of Arizona) ought to have the decency to keep their mouths shut forever when it comes to blaming anyone else for increasing the national debt.

That wasn't some wild-eyed liberal like Michael Moore writing that; it was Bruce Bartlett, fiscal conservative and a former aide to Ronald Reagan. And he's right.

Santorum was lying when he said his 2003 vote was "a mistake," because it wasn't a mistake at all. It was the very essence of what Santorum did best during his 12 years in the Senate, and what he (extremely unlikely) or someone like him would do if sitting in the Oval Office in 2013: Taking the dollars you pay in taxes and re-directing them toward his millionaire corrupt cronies. Rick Santorum can't even tell the truth when trying to apologize. And shame on Fox for letting this baloney go unchallenged.