The Corner

The DSCC’s Gillespie Smear

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is out with a doozy of an attack on Ed Gillespie, who is considering launching a campaign for the Virginia Senate seat currently held by Mark Warner. Their attacks are mostly misleading and seem to say more about Democrats fearing a Gillespie candidacy than his record.

The Individual Mandate:

This issue came up during the 2012 election when Gillespie was named an adviser to Mitt Romney’s campaign. At the time, the Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney wrote that Gillespie had been a “lobbyist for a federal individual mandate.” NR’s Ramesh Ponnuru looked into the matter and found Gillespie had not backed a mandate in his book, Winning Right, which covered his vision for health-care reform at length. Gillespie told Ponnuru, “I’ve not advocated for a federal individual mandate.”

At issue is Gillespie’s brief involvement in a industry group called Coalition for Healthcare Reform. The group was the brainchild of Safeway CEO Steve Burd, who had developed innovative methods for cutting health-care costs at his company and was looking to become involved in health policy.

In an op-ed that ran in the Washington Times the day before the group officially launched on May 7, 2007, Burd wrote that “every American should be required to carry health insurance.” Shortly after the group’s launch, its website listed as one of its principles the idea of “a requirement that individuals carry health insurance.”

However, according to the accounts of Gillespie’s colleagues at Quinn, Gillespie, and Associates (QGA) the time, those principles never turned into an actual lobbying push for any specific bill, let alone one that included an individual mandate. “My recollection is neither Ed nor our colleagues at QGA actually lobbied specifically for any bill, let alone something related to an individual mandate,” Mark Lampkin, a former lobbyist with QGA, tells NRO.

The DSCC erroneously claims the coalition “paid [Gillespie] more than $300,000 to lobby for an individual mandate.” That’s quite misleading. The group paid Gillespie’s firm $300,000 for the year 2007, but Gillespie was only at the firm for a short period after the coalition was launched. Specifically, Gillespie was named President George W. Bush’s counselor June 13, five weeks after CAHR was publicly announced.

Through the end of June 2007, the coalition had paid QGA $120,000. But 16 different lobbyists were recorded as having worked on the issue for the firm that year, meaning even the smaller pot of money would have been split many ways, so it’s not correct Gillespie got “more than $300,000″ for his work.

The firm’s work for the coalition was significantly curtailed in 2008 and ceased by 2009, meaning that QGA was not lobbying for the coalition during the years when Obamacare was considered by Congress.

Finally, Gillespie’s book, which articulated his detailed health-care vision, did not embrace an individual mandate, despite the idea’s still being considered at the time by conservative policy thinkers. The DSCC says he was paid $300,000 to lobby for the individual mandate – in truth, he was paid an amount far, far smaller to set up a coalition for a CEO to advance his health-care policy vision, which at the outset included a vague embrace of a mandate. Gillespie’s brief association with the group aside, he’s never articulated any kind of personal embrace of an individual mandate and at times has argued forcefully against mandates.

Crossroads GPS:

The DSCC attacks Gillespie for having helped create American Crossroads GPS with Karl Rove, noting that Crossroads, a conservative political-action group, in February 2012 announced its intention to wade into primary battles to support candidates they believed were more viable for general elections.

Steven Law, the president of Crossroads, says that while Gillespie “certainly supported [the group’s] creation and has informally advised us, he’s never been a board member or paid consultant for us. When he went to the Romney campaign in May 2012, he ceased serving in even that limited capacity.”

More importantly, Gillespie has not played “any role” in “vetting candidates,” Law says. The DSCC is “lying through its teeth,” Law says, because “they’re petrified of him.”


The DSCC notes that Gillespie and Sarah Palin once had a bit of a dust-up over repealing Obamacare, before Republicans took control of the House​. Characterizing the plans of Mitch McConnell and John Boehner at the time, Gillespie said Republicans “would approach it with great care, that they would respond to what they’re hearing from the voters, which is to put the brakes on all this reckless spending, to try to repeal those parts of the health-care-reform bill, the Obamacare bill, that have caused premiums to go up, and have shifted people out of their insurance that they like into a public plan.” Palin said it was “out of touch” to call for merely repealing parts of Obamacare.

Gillespie quickly clarified at the time that he supports full repeal. And whatever McConnell and Boehner were saying then, that stance, if it can be called a stance, has not prevented the GOP from spending a lot of time since taking control of the House on efforts to repeal all of Obamacare. 

In any event, Gillespie’s rhetoric on Obamacare has generally been much stronger. Here he is on Meet the Press in March 2010, right as the law was being enacted:

Well, I think actually to run against this bill — look, when this bill passes, people say, “Oh, it’s going to get better over time.” I don’t think that’s the case. I think as the details of what’s in there gets out there more, voters hear about it, understand it. I understand there’s $10 billion in funding for the IRS to collect the new taxes, to enforce the individual mandate. It would take 16,500 new IRS officials to do all of this. This is massive. And when people see it, and I know Democrats take umbrage to “Oh, it’s government takeover,” it is a government takeover. That’s what’s going on here. And the voters are going to see it, and they’re going to reject it.

In 2009 he called an earlier iteration of Obamacare a “monstrosity.”


The DSCC attacks Gillespie for “support for comprehensive immigration reform goes so deep that it even includes citizenship for undocumented immigrants.”

Gillespie does support comprehensive immigration reform. He has suggested his overriding motivation is the chance for the Republican party to parry a cynical maneuver from President Obama: “There’s no instinct like a survival instinct,” he told Politico. Still, one has to marvel at the Democratic party attacking him for his stance on the matter.

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