The force behind the harassment strategy

THE FORCE BEHIND THE HARASSMENT STRATEGY…. It’s good to match the group with the thuggish tactics.

Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, the operation that’s running a national campaign against a public health care option, is now publicly taking credit for helping gin up the sometimes-rowdy outbursts targeting House Dems at town hall meetings around the country, raising questions about their spontaneity.

CPR is the group headed by controversial former hospitals exec Rick Scott that’s spending millions on ads attacking reform in all sorts of lurid ways, a campaign that’s being handled by the same P.R. mavens behind the Swift Boat Vets.

In response to my questions, a spokesman for the group confirmed that it has undertaken a concerted effort to get people out to the town hall meetings to protest reform.

We learned yesterday that the group sent an email to a right-wing listserv called the Tea Party Patriots Health Care Reform Committee, hoping to coordinate efforts on more than 100 town-hall events throughout the rest of the summer.

Brian Beutler added today, “The disclosure makes official what much of the reporting about the disruptions seemed to indicate: that industry funded groups–who stand to benefit if health reform legislation fails — are playing a significant role in organizing, and perhaps ginning up, the outbursts we’re seeing at health care public forums around the country.”

It’s also worth remembering that Conservatives for Patients’ Rights is run by Rick Scott, who is perhaps best known for having been ousted as the head of Columbia/HCA healthcare after a massive fraud investigation. Columbia/HCA ultimately pleaded guilty to a variety of fraud-related charges, paid $1.7 billion in fines, and got rid of their scandal-plagued chief.

HCAN’s Richard Kirsch said a couple of months ago, “Those attacking reform are really looking to protect their own profits, and [Rick Scott is] a perfect messenger for that. His history of making a fortune by destroying quality in the health-care system and ripping off the government is a great example of what’s really going on…. We cannot have a better first person to attack health care reform than someone who ran a company that ripped off the government of hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Right-wing activists teaming up with a right-wing scam artist to ensure the public can’t have an honest discussion about health care. It’s sad, in a predictable kind of way.