These 19 companies are bankrolling a new ad shaming Democrats for fighting for health care

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A subsidiary of the Republican Governors Association launched an anti-immigrant ad attacking Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear and others for supporting universal access to health care.

A xenophobic new ad from Putting Kentucky First, a state subsidiary of the Republican Governors Association (RGA), attacks Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear for being a Democrat and for protecting Medicaid expansion in the commonwealth.

Many of the companies bankrolling the ad, ironically, are health insurers, pharmaceutical companies, and others in the health care sector.

The RGA is going all out to re-elect Kentucky's current governor, Republican Matt Bevin, next month, even though he is the least popular governor in America. Its latest 30-second spot, posted on Tuesday, attempts to smear his Democratic opponent for being in the same party as presidential candidates who support undocumented immigrants having health care access.

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After showing a clip of a Democratic presidential debate, a narrator says that "Democrats running for president want to give taxpayer-funded health care to illegal immigrants."

"Andy Beshear is extreme on health care too," the narrator states. "Just like national liberals, Beshear supported a government takeover of our health care. Andy Beshear even opposes requiring able-bodied adults to work while receiving taxpayer-funded health care benefits."

The small print on the screen cites an AP story that noted Beshear's opposition to adding work requirements for Medicaid expansion in Kentucky and that he had defended the Affordable Care Act in court — a "government takeover" in the RGA's view.

The RGA is registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a tax-exempt "527" political organization and can raise unlimited sums of money directly from corporations and individuals. According to its most recent filing, it has raised nearly $30 million already this year.

A huge chunk of that funding comes from the health sector -- more than $4 million. This includes eight pharmaceutical companies, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), six health insurers, and four other heath sector companies who each contributed more than $100,000 already this year.

The list of companies includes:

Aetna (health insurer) $250,000
Anthem Inc. (health insurer) $400,000
BlueCross BlueShield Association (health insurer) $250,000
Centene Management Company (health insurer) $250,000
Molina Healthcare (health insurer) $250,000
UnitedHealth Group (health insurer) $325,000
Fresenius Medical Care (kidney dialysis) $250,000
LogistiCare Solutions (healthcare transportation) $125,000
MAXIMUS (healthcare administration) $130,000
ResCare Inc. (home care) $125,000
PhRMA (trade association for the pharmaceutical industry) $275,000
Alkermes Inc. (pharmaceutical company) $202,500
Astellas Pharma US (pharmaceutical company) $125,000
AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals (pharmaceutical company) $250,000
Eli Lilly and Company (pharmaceutical company) $110,000
Gilead Sciences (pharmaceutical company) $105,000
Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals (pharmaceutical company) $110,000
Pfizer (pharmaceutical company) $365,000
Vertex Pharmaceuticals (pharmaceutical company) $275,000

Only three of those donors immediately responded to an inquiry about the ad and whether they would ask the RGA to take it down.

A spokesperson for MAXIMUS said in an email, "MAXIMUS is nonpartisan and works with members of all parties to develop solutions to better serve citizens through effective government services. We participate in NGA [National Governors Association], DGA [Democratic Governors Association] and RGA, provide DGA and RGA equal amounts of financial support, and have done so for many years."

A spokesperson for Aetna wrote that as part of the company's "political engagement on both sides of the aisle," it has "made contributions to the Democratic and Republican Governors Associations in 2019."

A spokesperson for Astellas said in a statement that it "supports elected officials, candidates and organizations, irrespective of party affiliation, who demonstrate leadership on health care issues, and who share our goals of advancing sound policies that foster the discovery and development of new medicines and help ensure access to life-saving and life-enhancing innovative treatments for patients in need."

Gilead Sciences declined to comment.

A spokesperson for UnitedHealth, which has contributed to both the RGA and DGA, also declined to comment.

PhRMA and many other industry companies supported the Affordable Care Act in 2009 and its Medicaid expansion. Thanks to Kentucky's embrace of the expansion, the state saw one of the nation's largest drops in percentage of people without insurance.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.