CHICAGO — One morning in March2021, at a nursing home in Evanston, resident Velta Saint registered an alarmingly low 44% oxygen level in her blood. Normal levels range from 95% to 100%, and one study recommends hospitalization for any patient with a reading below 90%. Medical workers tried to improve Saint’s respiration, then sent her to a hospital — which sent her back to the nursing home, before she was returned to the hospital, where she died. Saint’s ordeal came after her daughter, a registered nurse, said the home had been slow, in her opinion, to diagnose her condition and failed to trea...
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Outside ethics experts have said it’s a clear conflict of interest for Corcoran to own stock in businesses while deciding whether they get contracts to manage care for Ohio’s poor and disabled. But from early 2019 when Gov. Mike DeWine appointed her Medicaid director through the end of last year, her ethics filings have shown that she has owned at least $1,000 worth stock in CVS Health and UnitedHealth Group.
Both companies own pharmacy middlemen that have handled a huge volume of prescription-drug transactions for the Medicaid department, sometimes with controversial results. In 2017, for example, they charged taxpayers $224 million more for drugs than they paid the pharmacies that dispensed them.
Because of those and other problems with the pharmacy-benefit operations, the Medicaid department is abandoning the model under which they have operated. However, insurers owned by the same corporations got huge contracts as care managers as part of the same restructuring.
CVS’s Aetna received a billion-dollar contract to run OhioRISE, a program for children with complex behavioral health needs. And UnitedHealth is one of seven companies that will share $22 billion worth of Medicaid managed-care business over the next five years — the biggest public procurement in state history.
Corcoran’s filings show that last year she also owned at least $1,000 worth of stock in Humana, another insurer picked for a share of the managed-care business.
State ethics rules only require that officials such as Corcoran list all the stocks they own at least $1,000 worth of in a given year. So it’s impossible to know how heavily invested she is in those companies. Corcoran last year declined to file an affidavit disclosing her exact holdings in companies whose subsidiaries she was awarding contracts and she’s refused to make those disclosures voluntarily.
“Director Corcoran has complied with all laws at all times,” Medicaid spokeswoman Lisa Lawless said Monday when again asked how much stock Corcoran owned in the companies.
Corcoran disclosed her stock in CVS, UnitedHealth and Humana along with ownership in 277 other companies. They include several drugmakers and wholesalers. But while large amounts of Medicaid money might end up in their coffers, the Medicaid managed-care program in the past didn’t contract directly with them to purchase their products.
By contrast to Corcoran’s holdings, DeWine disclosed that he owned at least $1,000 worth of 70 stocks. They include drugmakers such as Merck and Pfizer, but not CVS, UnitedHealth or Humana.
Attorney General Dave Yost didn’t report ownership of more than $1,000 worth of stock in any company.
The Capital Journal has been reporting on Corcoran’s stock holdings in her department’s contractors since October, during a legal fight over the Medicaid procurement process. She’s refused to discuss them and her lawyers have complained in court documents about the coverage.
“The entire topic is a smear campaign intended to harass and embarrass Director Corcoran,” one filing said.
In another, Corcoran denied having any conflict of interest.
“I did not steer any of the Medicaid managed-care contracts towards or away from any applicant,” she said in a sworn affidavit, adding, “I did not knowingly have any conflict of interest related to the Medicaid managed-care contracts.”
Also in an affidavit, Corcoran swore that she wasn’t aware what stocks she owned “on any particular day or during any particular month.”
However, similar to her earlier disclosures, the one she filed at 9:22 a.m. Sunday swore that it had “been prepared or carefully reviewed by me, and constitute(s) my complete, truthful, and correct disclosure of all required information…”
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Ohio Capital Journal is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Ohio Capital Journal maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor David DeWitt for questions: email@example.com. Follow Ohio Capital Journal on Facebook and Twitter.
Emails show that John Eastman thought allegations of fraud were unnecessary for stealing an election
Pennsylvania state legislator Russ Diamond had a problem. Joe Biden carried the commonwealth by 80,000 votes, thereby securing its 20 electors. According to a newly released trove of emails, Diamond and fellow Republican state legislators wanted instead to send electors dedicated to Donald Trump. They just needed the right excuse.
If that sounds outrageous, that’s because it is.
At first, it seemed allegations of electoral fraud might do the trick. Trump and his lawyers blanketed the airwaves with outlandish claims about fraud at the polls. But when the Trump legal team made their case to the Pennsylvania legislature, their efforts struck Diamond as unconvincing and frankly incompetent. If there was no fraud, how could they justify overriding the will of the voters?
Luckily for Diamond, an obscure conservative law professor had recently said in testimony that state legislatures didn’t need evidence of fraud to disregard the will of the people. It was enough, Professor John Eastman said, that the legislature objected to the rules under which the election was conducted. After watching Eastman’s testimony, Diamond decided Eastman was just the man to help him write a resolution purporting to nullify the will of his state’s voters.
“Honestly, the Trump legal team was not exactly stellar at PA's hearing, failed to provide the affidavits of their witnesses, and made a glaring error by purporting that more ballots had been returned than mailed out,” Diamond admitted in an email to Eastman. “It is for this reason that I latched onto your comments that actual fraud is irrelevant when the election itself is unlawful.”
Diamond sent Eastman a draft resolution predicated on Eastman’s crackpot theory that the US Constitution gives state legislatures the unchecked power to disenfranchise their own voters after the fact if legislators don’t like the results of an election.
Eastman praised Diamond’s efforts but urged his protegé to go still further and actually name Trump electors in the resolution, as opposed to simply announcing their intent to do so.
“One big question, though. Do you want to only go half way, and require another resolution to actually choose a slate of electors? Or should you do it all in one resolution?,” Eastman wrote. “I don't know the dynamic of your Legislature, so can't answer that. But my intuition is that it would be better to do what you need to do in one fell swoop.”
The Pennsylvania Secretary of State and the courts had made some tweaks to facilitate voting during the pandemic. Republicans challenged these changes in court and lost. But Eastman promised that these changes could give the Pennsylvania legislature the excuse it needed to throw out the election, even without any evidence of fraud.
Eastman argued that it would be more politically palatable if the legislature could claim that the new rules cost Trump the election and they as legislators were simply righting that wrong by nullifying the election and replacing Biden’s electors with Trump’s.
Knowing that the mail-in vote favored Biden, Eastman suggested that the legislature pass a resolution arbitrarily declaring a certain percentage of perfectly legal mail-in ballots to be illegal based on a convoluted formula Eastman made up.
That way, Eastman said, the legislature could claim Trump won. “That would help provide some cover,” he asserted. (In fact, Trump would still have lost under Eastman’s metric, but that’s beside the point.)
Ultimately, Pennsylvania state legislators did not pass a resolution openly nullifying the results of their state’s election and naming alternative electors. Instead, at the urging of Trump’s legal team, Pennsylvania Republicans secretly named a slate of pseudo-electors, as did Republicans in six other states that Biden won.
The threat of an Eastman gambit has not passed.
If anything, it has gotten worse.
Republicans who take Eastman’s arguments seriously are gaining ground in state legislatures and key election administration posts.
The GOP may retake the House and Senate this year, which could put GOP legislators in charge of certifying the next presidential election.
A bolder state legislature could still attempt the Eastman gambit in 2024. A GOP-controlled Congress might agree to count the illegitimate electors chosen by politicians, instead of those chosen by the people.
That is why Congress must reform the Electoral Count Act to specify that if there are two slates of electors claiming to represent a state, Congress must only count electors courts have affirmed as legitimate.
'I am a black, gay, immigrant woman': New White House press secretary honors barrier-breakers before her
On her first official day as White House Press Secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre proudly announced, “I am obviously acutely aware that my presence at this podium represents a few firsts. I am a Black, gay, immigrant woman, the first of all three of those to hold this position. I would not be here today if were not for generations of barrier-breaking people before me. I stand on their shoulders."
"I benefit from their sacrifices, I have learned from their excellence. I am forever grateful to them. Representation does matter, you hear us say this often in this administration, and no one understands this better than President Biden."