Iowa Senator Joni Ernst was spotted yesterday morning walking into the Monocle Restaurant in Washington, D.C., for a high-dollar fundraising event with the healthcare industry.
In a video captured by American Bridge, Ernst heads into the upscale steak and seafood restaurant, where she was reportedly joined by Senator Chuck Grassley for a fundraiser for her campaign and PAC.
“Excuse me, Senator Ernst, why are you raising money from the healthcare industry instead of fighting for healthcare for Iowans?” the person taking the video asks to no response from Ernst.
To join Ernst, attendees had to write some large checks. An invitation obtained by Starting Line lays out what members or lobbyists for the healthcare industry needed to give. Hosts were required to donate or raise $5,000 each to either Ernst’s campaign or her Jobs, Opportunities, and New Ideas (JONI) PAC. Individuals could get by with $500, though.
The Republican consulting firm that organized the event for Ernst promotes itself as an experienced fundraising operation that helps connect legislators with the D.C. money network. They also note their past work with Republican Super PACs.
“We will work to promote you to the Washington donor community,” Holloway Consulting’s website reads. “This includes scheduling meetings and calls with PAC representatives and lobbyists, and organizing events to secure PAC contributions from associations, corporations, and ideological groups.”
Ernst’s healthcare industry fundraiser came the morning after she voted to give Chad Readler, who helped lead the Trump Administration’s efforts to eliminate pre-existing conditions coverage, a lifetime appointment to the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
As the New York Times reported, “The fight over Mr. Readler was intensified by his role in the legal struggle over the Affordable Care Act, which Democrats said he was obligated to defend as a top lawyer in the Justice Department’s civil division because it was existing law. Instead, he filed a brief in support of a lawsuit by Republican attorneys general aimed at gutting the Affordable Care Act, and argued that it, and its protections against denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, was unconstitutional.”
Groups like the American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, and the American Heart Association blasted Readler and the Justice Department’s efforts last year.
“The decision by the Department of Justice to abandon critical patient protections is devastating for the millions of Americans who suffer from serious illnesses or have preexisting conditions and rely on those protections under current law to obtain life-saving health care,” the organizations said in a joint statement last June.
Such arguments did not sway Ernst, who joined most other Senate Republicans in appointing Readler.
Private healthcare corporations have long lobbied against the ACA’s pre-existing coverage requirements, concerned that covering people with health issues would cut into their profit margin.
“Joni Ernst is so far out of touch she’s bordering on lost,” Progress Iowa’s Matt Sinovic said in a statement. “Voting for a nominee like Readler and cow-towing to the health care industry? She should be fighting for Iowans to get better health care, not actively working against her constituents.”
The optics for Ernst’s fundraiser with representatives for top healthcare industry executives likely won’t be helped by The Monocle Restaurant’s name. The Monocle promotes itself on being the closest restaurant between the Capitol and Union Station.
by Pat Rynard