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Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2007 11:02 am

A legislative “miracle”

Denny Hastert pulls a fast one for Chicago-based Aon

Untitled Document Sometimes even big corporations can’t get what they want from Congress. But — hey — that’s why they have special friends in high places. Aon Corp. is a Chicago-based global conglomerate that counts Sterling Life Insurance Co. among its subsidiaries. Last year, Aon lobbyists had written a little amendment that would have made a big change in the Medicare insurance program — a change that (surprise!) would have given an advantage to Aon over other insurers. In the regular legislative process, however, Aon’s lobbyists could not get Congress to go along. Indeed, when the House-Senate conference committee hammered out the final version of its Medicare bill, Aon’s change was specifically rejected. Yet when the voluminous bill was passed into law, four sentences that neither the House’s nor the Senate’s negotiators had approved miraculously appeared down in the dense text. They were the exact four sentences that Aon wanted, bending the Medicare law in its favor. From whence cometh this legislative miracle? From that old corporate favor-doer, Denny Hastert, then the speaker of the House. After the House-Senate negotiators had rejected the amendment — and just hours before the bill was voted on by the full House — Hastert appointed himself a majority of one and had the Rules Committee surreptitiously tuck Aon’s special-interest provision into the bill. Denny, ever the legislative prankster, did not bother to mention his banana-republic coup to the conference-committee negotiators, so they ended up voting unwittingly for a bill that contained the very giveaway they thought they had stopped. Will it surprise you to learn that Aon has been a loyal campaign donor to Hastert and the GOP? This is why we need public financing of elections — to stop such sleazy legislative “miracles.” To help, call Public Campaign: 202-293-0222.
Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist, and author.
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