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OVERBECK: When medical secrets become public
Obamacare’s electronic records mandate could jeopardize candidates
Imagine, if you will, the 2014 election. A charismatic conservative woman — another Sarah Palin — is running for the Senate seat of a Democrat lion long in fang. The Republican is a darling of the Tea Party base, which also tends to be pro-life. She’s leagues ahead of the Democrat incumbent: Her rallies are electric, her speeches inspiring. But scant weeks before the election, screaming headlines announce the unthinkable: The popular conservative had an abortion as a 20-something. Her disillusioned pro-life base stays home, and she loses big.
Somehow, her health records were leaked to the press. By whom? In a few short months, the Internal Revenue Service will be in charge of enforcing 50 new provisions of Obamacare. That’s the same IRS now revealed as a wholly owned subsidiary of President Obama’s governing principle, “the Chicago way.” As enforcers, the IRS will have full electronic access to the medical records of every single American.
Mull that over for a minute. Think about the huge damage the IRS has already done to Mr. Obama’s conservative opponents with outrageously lawless tactics — delaying tax-exempt nonprofit status for years, intimidating them with threats of perjury, illegally demanding donor lists, and leaking those lists to liberal media are just a few. These persecutions doubtlessly muzzled the Tea Party groups’ power and outreach. Many of these groups focus on get-out-the-vote campaigns, and the Obama camp’s successful stifling of those efforts may well have influenced the 5 million Republicans who stayed home in 2012. By robbing the opposition of its megaphone, the IRS doubtless helped win the election for Mr. Obama.
Actually, the IRS medical records seizure is already under way. Recently news broke that the agency illegally stole 60 million confidential client medical records of a California health care provider. Though this happened way back in March of 2011, it came to light now because the health care company is suing the IRS. Good luck with that. The Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are looking into it and have sent the usual strongly worded letter to the new IRS commissioner. Good luck with that, too. IRS agents had a search warrant to look into the financial, not the medical, records of one former company employee. From there, they creatively expanded their probe into the medical records of 10 million Americans — information on gynecological and psychological counseling, sexual and drug treatment, and more.
According to the lawsuit, the records belonged to “celebrities, sports personalities and CEOs,” and even “the intimate medical records of every state judge in California leading members of the Screen Actors Guild and the Directors Guild, and prominent citizens in the world of entertainment, business and government.”
What a juicy trove. This sensitive information could be used to induce an influential Republican filmmaker (yes, there are a few) to endorse Democratic candidates under threat of releasing confidential drug-treatment records, or to blackmail judges who may have medical embarrassments such as a sexually transmitted disease or HIV to hide. Or some independent Hollywood big shot could be motivated to contribute millions to Democrat war chests to avoid disclosure of treatment for a serious mental condition.
This all sounds like a best-selling political-thriller plot until we hearken back to Mr. Obama’s favorite method of winning elections: creative leakage. Mr. Obama earned his political chops on the way to the Oval Office as the beneficiary of unsavory details of opponents’ personal lives that turned elections his way.
Shortly before the 2004 Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate, Mr. Obama was losing in the polls against rival Blair Hull — until a Chicago Tribune story leaked that Mr. Hull’s wife had sought a protective order during their 1998 divorce. The resulting furor led Mr. Hull to reluctantly release the sealed records. Not coincidentally, Obama campaign guru David Axelrod had important contacts at The Tribune where he had been a political writer for eight years. Mr. Hull went down to defeat, and Mr. Obama became the nominee.
Sleazy divorce-related leaks continued to be Mr. Obama’s campaign theme in the general election. His Republican opponent, Jack Ryan, had everything going for him: smarts, good looks, wealth and a generous heart demonstrated when he quit a lucrative career to teach at an inner-city school. At the request of — yes, the Chicago Tribune — a judge unsealed the custody records in Mr. Ryan’s divorce. Mr. Obama’s capos pored through the 400 pages of custody papers and found allegations of an affair and visits to “sex clubs.” Days after the judge unsealed the records, Mr. Ryan dropped out of the race and last-minute replacement Alan Keyes stepped in. Mr. Obama won.
If you still think he won’t use IRS-generated leaks to win the House in 2014, recall what he told supporters about Republicans in the heat of the 2008 presidential race: “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.”
Joy Overbeck is a Colorado journalist and author.
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