Who is J. Patrick Rooney?

And why is he funding People of Color United, a group that has started running attack ads against John Kerry, describing him as "rich, white and wishy-washy" and mocking his wife for boasting of her African roots?

First things first. This is J. Patrick Rooney.

So he's not what you might first expect to see when you hear of a major bankroller of a group named "People of Color United"--a group, I might add, that seems to have no web presence at all and seems to have popped up out of nowhere just recently.

But it is what you would expect to see if you're looking for a guy who bankrolls Republican smear campaigns and gets favors from the Bush administration.

So who is J. Patrick Rooney? I'll let the Detroit Federation of Teachers answer that one for you:

Medicare's Hidden Bonanza for J. Patrick Rooney

There is little doubt about the biggest short-term winner in the new Medicare law. He is J. Patrick Rooney, a major Republican campaign donor and huge supporter of privatization of both health insurance and public schools. In 1991, he founded the first privately-funded school voucher program, the Educational CHOICE Charitable Trust, in Indianapolis. Rooney later created CEO America, a national private school voucher program funded by the Walton Family Foundation, which operates Wal-Mart, the largest and one of the most aggressive anti-union employers in the country.


Just days before the new Medicare bill passed, UnitedHealth Group, the largest insurer in America, paid $500 million in cash for Rooney's family-owned company, a move that analysts say was directly tied to the Medicare bill's provisions broadening the market for HSAs. In their 10-year campaign to promote HSAs, Rooney's family, companies, and employees have given $3.6 million to political candidates and committees, with 90 percent going to Republicans. Rooney and his companies gave another $2.2 million to Republican organizations, including $121,000 to help pay for President Bush's Florida recount battle, and nearly $1.9 million for a group called the Republican Leadership Coalition, which ran attack ads against Al Gore during the 2000 campaign. In the meantime, the Golden Rule division of UnitedHealth has gotten a jump on the competition, having rolled out new health savings accounts within weeks of the bill's passage. By then, UnitedHealth's stock had already jumped 9 percent. "We know this market exceptionally well," Golden Rule's top lobbyist, Brian McManus, boasted. "We pioneered it."

So in other words, he's a crony--a crony who's using inflammatory, racially charged rhetoric to spread misinformation about John Kerry and his wife. Kerry comes in for criticism over a rigged vote that the Senate Republicans were never going to allow to pass--the one on unemployment benefits--while the Washington Post article linked above states:
Another ad attacks Teresa Heinz Kerry, who, at the Democratic convention last month cited her birth and upbringing in Mozambique and who has described herself as African American. In the radio commercial, the announcer says: "His wife says she's an African American. While technically true, I don't believe a white woman, raised in Africa, surrounded by servants, qualifies."
It's disgusting.

And lest you think that any of this is motivated by genuine feeling instead of profit margin, I'll refer you to the end of the WaPo article.
Rooney sold Golden Rule to UnitedHealth Group Inc. for a reported $893 million in September 2003, just as Congress moved toward passage of a tax break for health savings accounts that will cost the Treasury $16.5 billion in lost revenue over the first five years.


After the 2003 passage of the Medicare bill, the Democratic National Committee released a report headlined "Bush's Medicare Bill Provided Major Payoff to Golden Rule." It charged that "in their 10 year campaign to promote the accounts, Rooney's family, companies and employees have given $3.6 million to political candidates and committees, with 90 percent going to Republicans."

How long before the commercials make CNN while the background stays, well, in the background?

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