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Campus Politics as a Training Ground

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By Judy Sarasohn
Thursday, April 6, 2006

J im Smith , who ran Paul Begala 's ultimately successful campaign for student body president at the University of Texas in the early 1980s, is bringing his campaign skills to the issue of long-term/post-acute health care.

More on the Begala campaign later.

Smith left the American Health Care Association, which represents the nursing-home industry, and joined the American Continental Group , where he is working to organize a coalition of groups interested in improving access to and sustaining long-term health care. He is also encouraging lawmakers to form a caucus on the issue.

"There's probably going to be 80 million seniors in the United States in the next decade or so," and they need an organized voice to speak to long-term health-care needs, Smith said. "We need to minimize our conflicts and avoid a food fight."

Before joining AHCA, Smith was vice president of federal government relations at AdvaMed, the Advanced Medical Technology Association, and he was a senior lobbyist at the American Medical Association.

Back to the University of Texas . . . Smith, Begala's roommate in Austin, said Begala initially came in third. First was a character hallucinated in a comic strip in the student newspaper; second was another human. Begala, now a Democratic consultant, won the runoff between the two live candidates.

Feeling Bullish on Partnerships

Stocks. Bonds. What's the difference? Well, not as much as there used to be, apparently. The Securities Industry Association and the Bond Market Association said they might merge.

The boards of both organizations agreed to the arrangement in concept yesterday, according to a joint statement. They will vote on the merger in its many details by June 30, followed by a vote of the full membership. Colleague Jeff Birnbaum says the combination has been in the works for months but has not been widely talked about, making it one of the quietest merger negotiations in the history of K Street -- and Wall Street, too.

A Real Bear of a Problem

Speaking of health care . . . There's a bear in the hospital. Or at least in the advertisement of a new advocacy group, Health Care America. A play on the famous Reagan campaign ad "There is a bear in the woods" -- Reagan's bear was the Soviet Union -- HCA's bruin is "a reference to government control of our health-care system," explains Sarah Berk , executive director of HCA.

The ad, scheduled for Roll Call today, states: "There's a bear in our health care system. . . . Isn't it time somebody stood up to the bear?"

Berk said HCA is a nonpartisan advocacy group whose mission is to "promote access, choice, quality, innovation and competition." HCA is funded, she said, by employer, hospital, pharmaceutical manufacturing and other interests.

Berk, a former lobbyist for the American Hospital Association and earlier an aide in the leadership office of Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), said HCA will not lobby on legislation. It wants to produce research papers and be a free-market "counter-voice" to Families USA, a group that she said promotes a "liberal health-care agenda."


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