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The Socialist Behind Romneycare

Written by Cliff Kincaid

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A new report from researcher Trevor Loudon names one of the main architects of Romneycare in Massachusetts as a member of an international socialist movement. John E. McDonough, a former Ted Kennedy staffer who also played a significant role in passing Obamacare, is identified by Loudon as a former chair of the Boston chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), a pro-Marxist group that is affiliated with the Socialist International.

McDonough is now a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Loudon is the blogger from New Zealand who broke the stories of Frank Marshall Davis being Obama’s communist mentor, and Van Jones having a communist background after his appointment as Obama’s “Green Jobs Czar.”

Loudon’s new report, which is potentially embarrassing to Mitt Romney as he tries to prove his conservative credentials, is headlined, “How DSA Marxists Influenced Health Policies for Both Major Presidential Candidates.”

McDonough acknowledged to AIM, “…between the late 1970s and the early 1980s, I was a member of (first), the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee, and then Democratic Socialists of America as it became in the early 1980s. I left the group in 1982 or 1983. I also served as chair of the Boston chapter for a couple of years.”

In his book, Inside National Health Reform, McDonough writes, “…I participated in the conception, birth, infancy, and toddlerhood of the Massachusetts health reform program, which became law in 2006 with the support of the Republican governor, Mitt Romney…”

“More than any of us imagined at the time,” he went on, “Massachusetts reform became an essential template for federal reform.”

His current bio notes that he “played a key role in passage and implementation of the 2006 Massachusetts health reform law” and highlights his academic credentials but makes no mention of his involvement in socialist groups.

Although McDonough told AIM that he left the DSA in the early 1980s, Loudon cites a 2005 issue of “The Yankee Radical,” the newsletter of the DSA chapter in Boston, highlighting McDonough as one of several speakers at a DSA event in that year. It refers to McDonough as a former chair of Boston DSA and advocate of universal health care.

An Obama campaign video, released on the six-year anniversary of Romneycare, identifies McDonough as one of the architects of both the Romney and Obama plans. “I helped craft and pass Massachusetts health reform in 2006 and the Affordable Care Act in 2010,” McDonough says in the video. It makes no mention of his DSA affiliation.

The video was designed to make Romney look foolish for campaigning to repeal a national program modeled after the state plan he signed when he was governor of Massachusetts.

In what is a first for Trevor Loudon, a strong critic of Obama, he posted the Obama campaign video as incriminating evidence of McDonough’s role in both the Obama and Romney health care plans. “I can’t dispute the facts,” Loudon says. “All I’ve added is that he happens to have been a DSA member.”

But that affiliation is a blockbuster. DSA describes itself as the largest socialist organization in the United States and the principal U.S. affiliate of the Socialist International. A recent issue of the Boston DSA newsletter hailed the victory of the socialists in France.

In an article in the Spring 2007 issue of DSA’s Democratic Left, National Political Committee member David Green wrote, “Our goal as socialists is to abolish private ownership of the means of production.”

Back in 2008 AIM reported extensively on Obama’s own ties to the DSA. And he has not cut those ties. As president, he recently gave a Medal of Freedom to Dolores Huerta, the honorary chair of DSA.

McDonough’s role in Romneycare is not disputed. “As director of the advocacy group Health Care for All, he played a key role in the 2006 Massachusetts health reform law…” noted CommonWealth magazine.

Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute and a co-author of Why ObamaCare Is Wrong for America, agrees that there is no question McDonough played a significant role in the Massachusetts plan.

But Cindy Gillespie, a trusted Romney aide who led his health care reform effort, says Romney had nothing to do with him. She told us that she would have no comment on McDonough’s socialist credentials because he “was not part of Governor Romney’s health care team nor was he ever an advisor to the governor during Massachusetts health care reform.”

It would seem that she was someone in a position to know. Her bio notes that she “served as counselor to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney” and “played a leading role in the development of Massachusetts health insurance reform.”

But her denial only confirms that McDonough exercised his influence through his running of  Health Care for All, a liberal or “progressive” organization based in Massachusetts, and connections to Massachusetts Democratic politicians who played a role in shaping the legislation. This included Senator Ted Kennedy, who would later hire McDonough as a “senior advisor” for “national health reform” in 2008, setting the stage for Obamacare.

Kennedy stood by Romney’s side when he signed the legislation in April 2006 and was labeled Romney’s “health care partner” by the media at the time. Romney called Kennedy “my collaborator and friend” and a “parent” of the bill.

Grace-Marie Turner says, “It seems to me the bigger story is that McDonough used his work in Massachusetts as a springboard to Washington where he did have a major role in coordinating the development of the legislation that became Obamacare.”

Until the publication of Loudon’s report, however, McDonough had a reputation as a serious academic and policy analyst. His involvement in the Democratic Socialists of America, a far-left organization which openly and approvingly quotes Karl Marx, puts Obamacare into the context of socialist plans to remake the U.S. economy and reduce the influence of the private sector.

Loudon, who specializes in drawing attention to Marxist infiltration of government and society, doesn’t pull any punches, calling McDonough a “leading Marxist health academic.”

The controversial nature of DSA, however, goes beyond promoting socialism to working with America’s enemies. DSA member Kurt Stand went to prison for conspiracy to commit espionage on behalf of East Germany and the Soviet Union. Stand had been a left-wing labor activist who had helped fellow DSA member John Sweeney depose Lane Kirkland as head of the AFL-CIO.

Like many socialists, who prefer the label “progressive,” McDonough told AIM that “I have never described myself as a Marxist or even a Socialist,” but that he was and still is “a social democrat in the progressive tradition.”

He said he was drawn to DSOC/DSA “because of its national chairman, Michael Harrington, as well as some dynamic and smart folks in the Boston chapter.” Harrington wrote several books, including The Other America and Socialism: Past and Future.

Harrington’s socialist vision is said to have helped spark President Lyndon Johnson’s “war on poverty,” which has cost trillions of dollars and greatly expanded the power of the federal government in the economy. Harrington would later call President Ronald Reagan’s conservative policies “insane and cruel.”

While McDonough eschews the Marxist label, the DSA website quotes Karl Marx in arguing for social change. Joe Schwartz of DSA argues that Michael Harrington “was incredibly good at giving an accessible version of Marx’s critique of capitalism...” and that Harrington worked to “popularize” Marxist theory and “to resurrect Marx from the dustbin of authoritarianism…”

Since his time in DSOC/DSA, McDonough wanted us to know that he had become a respected political leader and academic: “I have served as a respected member and leader in the Massachusetts House of Representatives (1985-97), associate professor at the Heller School at Brandeis, executive director at Health Care for All—Massachusetts’ leading consumer health advocacy organization, health policy adviser to Senator Edward Kennedy (2008-2010), visiting fellow at Hunter College in NYC, and currently Professor of Public Health Practice at the Harvard School of Public Health.”

He added, “In 1990 I earned a Masters in Public Administration from the JFK School at Harvard, and in 1996 I earned a doctorate in public health from the University of Michigan's School of Public Health. I have written three books on U.S. health policy issues, and lots of peer reviewed articles.”

McDonough says that although he was “deeply involved” in the health care legislation passed in Massachusetts and on the national level, both Romney and Obama “would say they had zero contact with me, for different reasons.” He explained, “As a progressive health leader in Massachusetts, I helped push Massachusetts health reform in a much more progressive direction than Romney wanted. As part of a large army of U.S. Senate staffers, I never got into the same room as the President—many others outranked me.”

Still, the Obama campaign wanted the world to know, through that video, that McDonough had played a role in passing Obama’s “Affordable Care Act.”

While blowing the whistle on McDonough being a socialist who played a significant role in Romneycare and Obamacare, Loudon doesn’t blame Romney entirely for the passage of the state legislation.

“It came through the Massachusetts legislature,” Loudon said of Romneycare. “It’s full of DSA members and supporters. Romney wanted some reform and tried to do it through a conservative approach and it ended up being a compromise. The DSA won and Romney took credit for it.”

Grace-Marie Turner believes that Romney had a vision for market-based reform and vetoed the worst “collectivist” aspects of the legislation in Massachusetts. She told us that he “pushed back” against “some of the more egregious parts” of the legislation, such as major new bureaucracies and the employer mandate, and he wanted to give people a way out of the individual mandate.

Loudon said he would like to believe that Romney is for repealing Obamacare. But if he is elected—and that is a big “if,” since Loudon thinks Romney is running an ineffective campaign against Obama—“Obamacare will be replaced with something else,” Loudon noted. “And that is where the devil is in the details—a free market approach or watered down Obamacare?”

cliff-kincaid-web1Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism, and can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." target="_blank" title="This external link will open in a new window"> This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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