By: Jimmy Vielkind, Times Union – June 28, 2012
SARATOGA SPRINGS — “It feels so good to be giving this speech again…I assumed the Supreme Court would do the work for us,” Dick Morris, a longtime conservative political operative, said with a grin.
He was about to rattle off six Republican attack points against the Affordable Care Act, the core of which had been upheld earlier Thursday by a majority of the nation’s top jurists. The ruling was greeted warmly by President Barack Obama and other Democrats who said the law would expand access to health care.
But Morris, a professional message man who was at one time a trusted confidante of President Bill Clinton, had his own glowing spin: The ruling was the best thing that could have happened for Republican congressional candidates like Bob Dieterich, a bank executive who hosted Morris for the fundraiser at the tony Gideon Putnam resort.
“Today, Barack Obama won the battle and lost the war,” Morris continued. “The court today upheld the mandate and gave us a mandate: defeat Obama, re-take the Senate and repeal.”
Dieterich is running against Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, in the new 20th district. It merges the Spa City and south-lying areas of Saratoga County with Albany and Schenectady counties along with the cities of Troy and Amsterdam. It contains more enrolled Democrats than Republicans, though, and Dieterich has not drawn the same attention from national political operatives as other Republican challengers running upstate.
“The Supreme Court decision today should be a call to action for all of us who understand what a dangerous precedent has been set,” said Dieterich. “If the U.S. Congress has the power to tax you on something you didn’t do, then what are the limits?”
The law would require individuals purchase health insurance plans or face a tax penalty, expanding the insurance pool by roughly 30 million patients, and at the same time forbids insurers from screening out people with pre-existing health maladies. It will also expand government run insurance programs and create new health insurance exchanges, an open market for patients to purchase coverage.
Morris said healthcare could be a golden issue in the race because, he argued, it was a vast expansion of government involvement in the private sector that would lead to complete economic socialism. He predicted Dieterich would be part of a Republican sweep. While Tonko has voted to repeal two of its minor provisions, he was an unabashed supporter of the law, voting for versions of it in 2009 and 2010. He said television advertising in the Capital Region is comparatively cheap, and despite Tonko’s advantages in campaign cash and name recognition, Dieterich could easily boost his own profile.
So as much as it was a pep talk, Thursday’s event was about money. The 150 audience members paid $125 each (or $200 per couple) to hear Morris and gnosh on a buffet that included calamari, a carving station and open bar.
Roughly 20 guests attended a $1,000-per-person VIP reception with Morris earlier in the evening, according to Patrick Ziegler, Dieterich’s campaign manager. Ziegler said he couldn’t estimate how much money was raised or how much Morris was paid, because the fee was “still being worked out.”
Seven people organized by the liberal MoveOn.org waved signs outside the event, saying Morris was a “propaganda artist for the one percent.” Morris spoke for over 45 minutes, shook hands and signed copies of his book before leaving to tape an appearance on Fox News, where he is a paid contributor.