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Zack asked this question earlier, and we're still waiting for an official answer, but news stories from back in April strongly suggest that Humana wasn't the only insurance company enlisting seniors (legitimately and otherwise) to lobby against changes to Medicare Advantage. In fact, the problem may have been industry-wide.

Here's an April 13 story from the Eagle Tribune in Massachusetts:

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We've told you about Hassan Nemazee's leading role in raising money for the Democrats' climb back to power over the last few electoral cycles. But a longer look back shows that the New York financier -- who was charged yesterday with running a $292 million Ponzi scheme -- began building his influence by wrangling cash for the Clinton-Gore team during the 90s. And that his largesse also extended to the GOP.

Based on news reports accessed via Nexis, here's a quick time-line on Nemazee's political and fund-raising work during those years:

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The special election in New York's 23rd District has just barely started, and a date hasn't been formally set -- in fact, former Rep. John McHugh (R) only just resigned yesterday, in order to become President Obama's Secretary of the Army -- but the TV ads are already airing from both sides.

Democratic candidate Bill Owens, an attorney and Air Force veteran -- who was also a registered independent before launching his campaign -- has this ad introducing himself to voters. "In all, I've helped to attract over 2,000 jobs to upstate New York," Owens says. "I'm running for Congress, and I approved this message, because my family taught me to fight for what matters, and right now, we need to fight for upstate New York."



Meanwhile, the NRCC has a new pair of attack ads -- one on TV, one on radio -- against Owens and promoting their own candidate, state Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, by tying Owens to the right's most frequently invoked menace, Nancy Pelosi, and also to President Obama.

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As Zack noted in great detail here, the Obama administration is investigating the activities of health insurance giant Humana--a participant in Medicare Advantage that's been telling its aging consumers that the government plans to slash benefits, and urging them to tell Congress not to touch the program as it reforms the U.S. health care system.

Medicare Advantage plans are private health care plans that seniors can buy into with federal assistance in lieu of participating in traditional Medicare. Under terms the government erected when it created the system, those insurers face strict limits on how they communicate to beneficiaries--regulations that exist to protect seniors from acting under the pressures of insurers, who control their benefits. In response to a request from Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services has demanded the lobbying effort cease, and is investigating the company to determine whether it violated those rules.

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House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) appeared yesterday at a health care reform discussion hosted by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. As the newspaper reported, constituents "listened without booing" and "left in an orderly fashion -- without shouting, fighting or the escort of law enforcement." What a refreshing change of pace.

As Think Progress pointed out, there was only one glitch: Cantor told a woman whose uninsured relative needs a tumor operation that she ought to look into "an existing government program" or seek charity to pay for the operation. Way to stick to conservative principles.

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Besides showering Democratic politicians with hundreds of thousands dollars -- probably several million in all -- what was Hassan Nemazee spending all that money on?

Unlike Bernie Madoff or 'Sir' Allen Stanford, Nemazee's alleged Ponzi scheme did not involve bilking individual investors. The Feds put the fraud at $292 million since 1998. Even taking into account that some of the money was allegedly borrowed to pay off other loans, a person would have to spend hard and often, on more than just political donations, to burn through that kind of cash.

And, the indictment suggests, Nemazee did just that.

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President Obama told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that they "must take risks for peace" in trilateral meetings, Middle East Envoy George Mitchell told ABC News.

Reading from notes taken during the meeting, Mitchell quoted the President as saying:

It's difficult to disentangle ourselves from history but we must do so. The only reason to hold public office is to get things done. We all must take risks for peace. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians is critical to Israel's security and it's necessary for Palestinians to realize their aspirations.


A "senior U.S. official" also said Obama wanted to impart "a sense of his impatience and seriousness and his analysis that they need to get going." Peace talks "can't just be a perpetual kabuki," the official said, if Obama is "going to continue to invest his political capital."

Before the meeting, Obama called on the leaders to "find a way forward."

TPMLivewire