Old DeLay scam makes a comeback

OLD DELAY SCAM MAKES A COMEBACK…. In 2002 and 2003, then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) had an aggressive scam operation, targeting doctors’ offices. It was a straightforward scheme — DeLay’s office would call medical offices, and invite doctors to join a “Physicians Advisory Board,” which an aide said would offer medical professionals an opportunity to advise lawmakers on health care issues.

Of course, there was no actual “Physicians Advisory Board.” DeLay would host meaningless events, and insist that doctors contribute $5,000 to attend. Indeed, even agreeing to join the non-existent “Board” meant an expectation that doctors would pony up political contributions. DeLay used the money for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Common Cause called DeLay’s scheme “predatory, deceptive and downright sleazy.”

DeLay may be gone, but his scam isn’t. Rep. Tom Price (R) of Georgia, head of the Republican Study Committee, has created the “Physicians’ Council for Responsible Reform,” which is a front operation for the NRCC. According to Price, doctors who get involved with Price’s scam “will be receiving special briefings and providing input to Republican members of Congress.” Participants are reassured, however, that there is “no time commitment.” (This is about fundraising and sticking a name on a press release, after all.)

Doctors invited to join this not-so-illustrious group are given a number to call, which will connect them to a InfoCision call center where someone will pretend to work for the “Physicians’ Council for Responsible Reform.”

Slate‘s Tim Noah did a little follow-up.

I put in a call to Rep. Price’s office to find out more about the PCRR. They referred me to the NRCC. A press representative who called back said he didn’t know anything about the Physicians’ Council and would have to get back to me.

I phoned the InfoCision call center and asked for some information about the PCRR. I was referred to Jessica Boulanger at the NRCC. When I phoned the NRCC, I was informed that nobody named Jessica Boulanger worked there. (Apparently, she used to.)

I phoned the InfoCision call center again and asked for Sabrina Taylor, the contact name on Fred’s draft press release. I was told she was busy. I asked if Sabrina could call me back. This seemed to flummox the person I was speaking to. “Does Sabrina Taylor exist?” I asked. Yes, I was assured. I left my name and number. Sabrina didn’t call back.

I phoned InfoCision yet again and asked for Candace Lyons. This was an entirely different contact listed on the version of the draft press release posted on the Think Progress Web site. Candace Lyons was also busy. Could Candace could call me back? Once again, this request seemed highly irregular. “Does Candace Lyons exist?” Yes. Candace didn’t call back.

I phoned InfoCision’s public relations office and got a very nice-sounding woman who said she’d get back to me. She didn’t.

Let this be a lesson to medical offices everywhere — if Tom Price’s office calls, hang up.