Aides to President Obama and Max Baucus met with a variety of lobbyists for corporate health care companies on April 15, to help form two industry coalitions and launch a multimillion-dollar ad campaign, Politico has learned. Though both sides insist no quid pro quo was laid out, some participants say they felt pressured to join the coalitions created at the meeting. “What were we supposed to say? No?” says one attendee.
Others say the meeting only formalized de facto alliances. Attendees say Democrats were subtle, discussing shared goals but making no overt demands. One ethics expert says that still raises plenty of concerns, though. “They’re basically laying a ‘quid’ on the table and—even if they don’t discuss dollar amounts or advertising strategies—they’re suggesting what the ‘quo’ is, which is the groups’ support for the plan.”