Tom Cotton: Blind Ambition

2013-11-11 Blind Ambition 2Tom Cotton’s blind ambition for higher office has caused him to “pony-up” to the special interests in Washington; special interests that care nothing about Arkansas and only want to impose an agenda that serves their interests.

In the first three months in Congress, Tom Cotton took three luxury trips paid for by Washington special interest groups; groups (Club for Growth, Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute) that successfully urged Cotton to follow their agenda and vote to privatize Medicare, cut benefits, raise the eligibility age to 70 and turn the program over to insurance companies.

The same special interests have given Cotton Big Money to get their way. For example, the Club for Growth—a mostly secret group of donors pursuing a reckless and harmful agenda—has raised more than $500,000 for Cotton and has spent, along with Cotton’s other special interest allies, more than $1 million to promote his campaign.

So while Tom Cotton was willing to miss votes in Congress during the shutdown debate in order to raise money in Texas for his campaign, he has never missed a vote when it comes to cutting Medicare and turning it over to the insurance companies.

Tom Cotton’s blind ambition has led him to pursue a reckless and irresponsible agenda that is harmful to Arkansans.

In 30 seconds or less

In his first three months in Congress, Tom Cotton took three luxury trips paid for by special interests; special interests that want to privatize Medicare, cut benefits and turn it over to the insurance companies.

And they have given Cotton Big Money to get their way.

Cotton missed votes in Congress to raise money in Texas,…but he never missed a vote to cut Medicare and turn it over to the big insurance companies.

Putting his own ambition ahead of Arkansas…Cotton will do anything to get ahead.

The Facts:

Club For Growth Paid $1,261.07 For Cotton To Attend Their Event At The Breakers Palm Beach Oceanfront Luxury Hotel In Palm Beach, Florida. According to Member travel disclosure forms, from March 7th through March 8th, 2013, Cotton attended an event hosted by the Club for Growth at the Breakers Palm Beach Oceanfront Luxury Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida. The total cost of the event was $1,261.07. The congressman’s travel cost $679, lodging cost $499.50, and meals cost $82.57. [U.S. House of Representatives Member Disclosure Form, 3/20/13]

Heritage Foundation Paid $1,440.20 For Cotton To Attend Heritage Event At Royal Sonesta Harbor Court. According to Member travel disclosure forms, from February 6th through February 8th, 2013, Cotton stayed at the Royal Sonesta Harbor Court in Baltimore, Maryland on a trip funded by the Heritage Foundation. The total cost of the trip was $1,440.20. Travel cost $462, lodging cost $392, meals cost $476.20, and another $75 was spent on binders and office supplies. [U.S. House of Representatives Member Disclosure Form, 2/20/13]

American Enterprise Institute Paid $2,058.90 For Cotton To Attend Their Event At The Cloister At Sea Island In Sea Island, Georgia. According to Member travel disclosure forms, from March 8th through March 10th, 2013 Cotton attend an American Enterprise Institute event at the Cloister at Sea Island in Sea Island, Georgia. The Congressman’s travel cost $943.90, lodging cost $920.75, and total meal expenses were $205.25. [U.S. House of Representatives Member Disclosure Form, 3/22/13]

Congressman Cotton Was Sworn In On January 3, 2013. [Office of Congressman Cotton, 1/4/13]

Club For Growth Urged Members To Vote For Republican Study Budget, Which Privatized Medicare. Club for Growth urged members to vote for Republican Study Budget. According to the Republican Study Committee, “Specifically, this proposal… Transitions Medicare to a solvent premium-support system, as proposed by the House Budget Committee. This plan provides Medicare enrollees a greater menu of choices including staying with the current system, harnessing the power of competition among private insurance plans and improving the quality of care.” [Key Vote Alert, Club for Growth, 3/27/12; Republican Study Committee, accessed 11/5/13]

Heritage Action Urged Members To Vote For Republican Study Budget, Which Privatized Medicare. Heritage Action asked members to vote for the Republic Study Budget. They described the vote as, “At its core, the “Back to Basics Budget” serves as a benchmark for serious entitlement reform. Rather than grandfathering the bulk of the Baby Boomers into a failing entitlement system – the peak of that generation was born in 1957, meaning they are now 55 – the RSC Budget would institute the Ryan premium support plan for Medicare for those under 60. Instituting a premium support plan will give seniors access to more health care choices and better quality of care. The RSC Budget would also slowly increase the eligibility age to 70 years.The budget also improves the future of the current Social Security system. Again, gradually increasing the eligibility age to 70 and switching to chained CPI-U to more accurately track inflation.” [Heritage Action Scorecard, 3/20/13]

American Enterprise Institute Said Ryan Plan To Privatize Medicare Was “Essential.” American Enterprise Fellow James Capretta wrote, “The Medicare reform plan advanced by Rep. Paul Ryan is not just a good idea, it’s essential both to restoring solvency to the federal government and to improving the nation’s health care system.” Capretta continued, “The alternative is to harness the power of consumer choice in Medicare. The proposal would be phased in gradually. Current beneficiaries and those age 55 and older would see no changes in the way the program works for them. Future entrants, however, would be entitled to a premium support payment which they would direct to the plan of their choice. They could choose to enroll in a private insurance option, or the government-administered fee-for-service program. The government’s premium support payment would be the same regardless of the choices beneficiaries made.” [Capretta, American Enterprise Institute, 8/17/12]

From 2011-2013 Club For Growth Has Donated Over $500,000 To Cotton’s Campaigns. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, from 2011 through May 31st, 2013, the Club for Growth donated $335,833 to Cotton’s campaign account. According to Cotton’s third quarter FEC report, covering June 1st, 2013 through September 30, 2013, the Club for Growth donated nearly $180,000 to Cotton.  [Top Contributors, Cotton, Center for Responsive Politics, 8/19/13; Cotton for Senate, FEC.gov, 10/13/13]

  • Cotton Described Receiving A FedEx Envelope Stuffed With $300,000 In Checks From The Club For Growth.” In January 2013, Politico wrote: “Freshman Rep. Tom Cotton, a veteran of two wars and with a pair of Harvard degrees, got a pleasant surprise last year that helped him win a very competitive Republican primary — and then a very easy general election. It was a FedEx envelope full of checks that he didn’t ask for, from a group he hardly knew — the Club for Growth. Tucked inside that envelope and several to come were $300,000 in checks from Club members, enough to help lift the 35-year-old former Army captain from obscurity — and 47 percentage points down in his first internal poll — to the fourth floor of the Cannon House Office Building.” [Politico, 1/8/13]
  • The Sunlight Foundation’s OpenSecrets Noted That The Club For Growth Money Was “Far And Away The Most Substantial Chunk Of Money That Cotton Received.” “According to OpenSecrets.org data, Cotton picked up more than $245,000 in donations earmarked through the Club for Growth PAC. The Politico piece suggests the amount was even higher, describing Cotton’s campaign receiving a FedEx envelope with more than $300,000 in checks from Club for Growth members. Either way, it’s far and away the most substantial chunk of money that Cotton received.” [Opensecrets.org, 1/8/13]
  • Over One Fifth Of Cotton’s Individual Donations Were From Club For Growth. In his first quarter as a Senate candidate, Cotton raised $855,745.64 from individuals. Of that total, $176,429.55, or over 20%, was contributed by Club for Growth. [Cotton for Senate, FEC.gov, 2013]

Club For Growth Spent Another $520,000 On Ads Benefitting Cotton. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, in 2014, the Club for Growth spent $520,112 on independent expenditures against Senator Pryor, as of November 10, 2013. [Center for Responsive Politics, 11/10/13]

Total Outside Spending By Special Interests On Behalf Of Cotton Was Over $1 Million. According to the Sunlight Foundation, as of November 11, 2013, independent expenditures spent $937,339 opposing Senator Pryor. IN addition, the Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative judicial group, spent another $95,000 opposing Pryor. [Sunlight Foundation, accessed 11/11/13; Associated Press, 11/8/13]

Cotton Missed 2 Votes In Order To Attend A Campaign Fundraiser In Houston, TX. According to Southwest Times Record, “Two votes were held on noncontroversial issues Wednesday evening [September 25, 2013], which Cotton missed because he was in Houston at a previously scheduled fundraiser for his campaign to unseat U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark. ‘I had commitments that I already made, and I’m a man of my word and try to keep my commitments,’ Cotton said Friday. ‘But, … I’ve got a 99 percent voting record which I’m very proud of and do my very best to maintain.’ Cotton has missed five roll-call votes out of 487 taken. Asked where he was Wednesday evening, Cotton said ‘Texas.’ Then he acknowledged that, ‘yes,’ it was a campaign fundraiser.” [Southwest Times Record, 9/27/13]

  • Headline: Cotton Missed Votes For Houston Fundraiser [Southwest Times Record, 9/27/13]

Cotton Voted for FY 2014 Ryan Budget. In 2013, Cotton voted for passage of the controversial Ryan Budget that would “[restructure] of Medicare into a “premium support” system beginning in 2024. It would call for an overhaul of the tax code, under which the alternative minimum tax would be repealed, the six current individual income tax brackets would be consolidated into two and tax credits and deductions would be eliminated or curtailed. The budget was adopted by a vote of 221-207. [CQ; H Con Res 25, Vote #88, 3/21/13]

  • Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: Ryan Budget “Would Transform Medicare Into A Voucher-Like System Known As Premium Support.” At a time when retiring baby boomers and mounting medical prices have made federal health-care spending the biggest single driver of the nation’s rising debt, the House budget from Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., would transform Medicare into a voucher-like system known as premium support, which Obama and Democrats adamantly oppose. But Cantor, like Obama, is suggesting cost-saving changes within the existing Medicare program. “[Arkansas-Democrat Gazette, 3/29/13]
  • Texarkana Gazette: Ryan Plan “Calls For Entitlement Cuts, Including Medicaid Cuts And A Voucher System Privatizing Medicare For Future Recipients.” According to an editorial by the Texarkana Gazette, “But the president may have a point as well. Speaking against a plan by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., that calls for entitlement cuts, including Medicaid cuts and a voucher system privatizing Medicare for future recipients, he said the proposal would amount to a tax on middle-class families and the poor.” [Editorial, Texarkana Gazette, 3/18/13]
  • CBPP: Medicare “Beneficiaries Would Have To Pay Higher Premiums To Participate In Traditional Medicare.” According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “In areas where Medicare incurs relatively high costs, the amount of the premium-support payment would equal the cost of a relatively inexpensive private plan, and beneficiaries would have to pay higher premiums to participate in traditional Medicare.” [CBPP, 3/15/13]
  • CBPP: Seniors Would Have To Pay More To Keep The Health Plans And The Doctors They Like. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “Over time, seniors would have to pay more to keep the health plans and the doctors they like, or they would get fewer benefits.” [CBPP, 3/15/13]
  • CNN: Ryan Plan Would Provide Seniors Subsidies With Government Subsidies To Purchase Private Insurance. According to CNN, “Workers who turn 65 in 2024 or later would be able to choose between a variety of private health insurance plans, along with the traditional Medicare option. They receive a subsidy from the federal government to cover or offset the cost of their Medicare premium. The subsidy would cover the cost of the second-least-expensive private plan or the Medicare option, whichever is less, in the first year. So if seniors select pricier coverage, they would have to pay the difference in cost. And they would receive a rebate if they selected a cheaper plan.” [CNN, 3/12/13]
  • GOP Budget Repeals Provision That Closed Donut Hole in Medicare Prescription Drug Program. According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, “Among other elements, the House GOP budget would repeal: The provisions that closed the “doughnut hole” in Medicare Part D.” [Bipartisan Policy Center, 3/12/13]
  • Ryan Budget Would Increase Prescription Drug Costs For Seniors By Re-opening Prescription Drug Doughnut Hole. “The Ryan budget would repeal health reform’s provisions that improve Medicare benefits, including closure of the Medicare prescription drug donut hole and coverage of preventive services without cost sharing. These repeals would adversely affect current Medicare beneficiaries as well as those not yet eligible. Health reform has begun to close the donut hole — the gap in Medicare prescription drug coverage that many seniors experienced once their annual drug costs exceeded $2,840.  Before health reform, seniors had no additional coverage until their costs hit $6,448.  Starting in 2011, seniors in the coverage gap began receiving a discount on brand-name and generic prescription drugs.  These discounts and Medicare coverage will gradually increase until 2020, when the entire donut hole is closed.  The Ryan budget would reopen the drug donut hole. Health reform also requires both private insurance companies and Medicare to cover preventive care services without any cost sharing.  Preventive care includes screenings for chronic illnesses like diabetes and cancer and routine vaccines.  The Ryan budget would reinstate cost sharing in Medicare for these preventive benefits. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 3/15/13]

Cotton Voted for Republican Study Committee Budget That Transformed Medicare Into Voucher System For Seniors. In 2013, Cotton voted for the Republican Study Committee budget that “would assume the transformation of Medicare into a premium support program that would compete against private plans.” The budget was rejected by a vote of 104-132. [CQ; H Con Res 25, Vote #86, 3/20/13]

  • Republican Study Budget Raised Medicare And Social Security Eligibility Age To 70. According to the Hill, “The RSC budget, which Chairman Steve Scalise (R-La.) previewed on Friday, would begin Ryan’s “premium support” for Medicare five years earlier, impacting people age 59 and younger. It was gradually increase the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare to 70, with the phase-up beginning in 2024.” [The Hill, 3/18/13]

Cotton Supported Both The FY 2013 Ryan Plan And The Republican Study Committee Plan. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported in 2012: “For his part, Tom Cotton says he supports either the Paul Ryan plan or something called the Republican Study Committee plan.” [Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 5/29/12]

  • PolitiFact: Mostly True That Ryan Plan Would Turn Medicare Into A Voucher System. According to PolitiFact, “In a TV interview, Chivukula claimed Republicans “have declared that they’re going to convert the Medicare program into a voucher program.” Starting in 2023, the Republicans’ plan would provide premium support payments for new beneficiaries to purchase private insurance or a plan that acts like traditional Medicare. The term ‘voucher’ generally describes this approach. We rate the statement Mostly True.’ [PolitiFact, 8/31/12]