Appearing on Fox News' Hannity following his arrest for charges relating to an alleged plot involving Sen. Mary Landrieu's phones, James O'Keefe repeatedly falsely suggested that Landrieu had received a $300 million bribe in return for a vote on health care reform legislation. In fact, Landrieu did not receive $300 million; rather, the Senate version of the health care bill included a provision that could give $300 million to Louisiana Medicaid to deal with the fallout from Hurricane Katrina.
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O'Keefe repeatedly falsely suggested Landrieu took $300 million bribe
O'Keefe: Landrieu "received a few hundred million dollars in money in exchange for her vote on the health care bill." During his February 1 appearance on Hannity, O'Keefe stated that the reason he had entered Landrieu's office was that "there were reports that Senator Landrieu -- her constituents was, were not able to get through to her. She said her lines were jammed for a few weeks after she received a few hundred million dollars in money in exchange for her vote on the health care bill."
O'Keefe: "We deserve to find out if they're accepting $300 million in money." Later in the interview, O'Keefe said of his actions in Landrieu's office: "Generally speaking, it's the people's office. It's -- these are representatives of our country and we deserve to find out if they're accepting $300 million in money. We deserve to find out what's going on, why the people of Louisiana couldn't get through to her."
Previously, O'Keefe claimed Landrieu constituents "didn't want her taking millions of federal dollars." In a statement posted on BigGovernment.com, O'Keefe asserted: "I learned from a number of sources that many of Senator Landrieu's constituents were having trouble getting through to her office to tell her that they didn't want her taking millions of federal dollars in exchange for her vote on the healthcare bill."
Money actually for Louisiana Medicaid, not Landrieu
Landrieu: Hundreds of millions in Senate bill to deal with shortfall in Louisiana Medicaid caused by Katrina. As the Washington Independent's David Weigel noted in response to O'Keefe's statement on BigGovernment.com: "[T]he controversy is not over whether Landrieu is "taking millions of federal dollars," but why the Senate added $300 million in Medicaid subsidies that stood to benefit Louisiana. That's a legitimate issue -- O'Keefe, trying to clear the air, bends it into a bribery smear." Indeed, several media outlets noted that Landrieu had secured funding to increase federal contributions to Medicaid as part of the Senate version of the health care reform bill worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Landrieu described the provision in a press release announcing her support for the health reform legislation, stating that it was necessary to deal with the fact that Louisiana's "per capita income was abnormally inflated" due to "one-time recovery dollars" given to Louisiana as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita:
Finally, I was also proud to work with Leader Reid and Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus to address an inequity in the formula that determines the federal match of Medicaid dollars. As we all know, in 2005 Hurricanes Katrina and Rita ravaged the Gulf Coast and destroyed homes, neighborhoods, and even full communities throughout South Louisiana. In an effort to aid the recovery, Congress approved a much-needed aid package for Louisianans that infused grant dollars and direct assistance to speed our recovery.
Some necessary one-time recovery dollars, in addition to labor and wage costs going up because there was a constriction in the market, were calculated into our State's per capita income. The result has been that Louisiana's per capita income was abnormally inflated, and put us in a category with richer states like Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maryland.
The result is that our federal match for Medicaid dropped pretty dramatically. I worked with my colleagues to correct this formula. I never asked for special treatment for Louisiana, but only for understanding of the unintended consequences of our state's unique situation. We only wanted to be treated fairly and not to get penalized because we have been forced to rebuild following the worst natural disaster in the United States' history. Our federal Medicaid match rates should reflect the reality on the ground in Louisiana, not the cold calculations of inflexible federal formulas.
Louisiana Republican Sen. Vitter reportedly said there are "legitimate arguments in favor of the Louisiana hurricane-Medicaid fix." From a January 28 article in the Baton Rouge Advocate:
Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said Landrieu's actions and the controversy that followed it hurt the merits and prospects of state congressional members to securing future federal Medicaid dollars.
"I'm afraid that legitimate arguments in favor of the Louisiana hurricane-Medicaid fix will never be focused on now because of the deal-making over the Obama health-care bill," Vitter said.
AP: Jindal's administration has "publicly sought a fix to the temporary drop in federal Medicaid match money for Louisiana." From a January 20 Associated Press article:
Without Landrieu's language, Louisiana's federal assistance for Medicaid will be cut because the state's post-Hurricane Katrina economic surge temporarily drove up average income in the state because of government aid and high-paying reconstruction jobs. The federal share of Medicaid aid is higher for states with lower average incomes. State officials have argued the state shouldn't be penalized for an artificial, temporary per-capita income boost.
"Louisiana only asked to stay where we were; to have the same payment schedule that we've always had," Landrieu said.
Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration and much of the state congressional delegation have publicly sought a fix to the temporary drop in federal Medicaid match money for Louisiana, though Jindal and most of the state's congressmen oppose the Democrat's health care bill.
Times-Picayune: Jindal health secretary says people should be "grateful that Landrieu used her leverage" to try to get health care fix. An November 20, 2009, article in the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported (via Nexis):
While the Republican National Committee immediately charged that Landrieu has made a "backroom deal with (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid for her support of the government takeover of our health care system,'' Alan Levine, Louisiana secretary of health and hospitals in the Jindal administration, said that even those who oppose the bill ought to be grateful that Landrieu used her leverage to try to fix the state's so-called "FMAP'' problem.
"Look,'' said Levine, who has been lobbying the administration and Congress on the FMAP issue for eight months, "it's good to have a senator in a position to be able to make demands like that.''
"While I don't support the bill, she is doing the best she can to help the state, and she should be applauded,'' he said.