Have you heard of billionaire activists John and Laura Arnold?

They are a billionaire couple that have managed to remain under the political radar screen, that are using their wealth to have the kind of political influence expected from the likes of the Koch Brothers or George Soros. They have worked to reshape the nation’s schools, criminal justice system, health care system by cloaking their influence via grants to institutes, universities, and politically oriented charities.

The Arnolds didn’t make their fortune building one or more successful businesses, they got wealthy the same way Soros did, by betting on someone else’s money. Arnold traded with Enron, the disastrously failed company that almost brought down the electrical grid in
California.

John Arnold gamed the system and in the process made $750 at the expense of other investors. He cracked the Forbes 400 in 2007, after making billions trading oil and gas futures during turbulent times for the energy markets. He was once the nation’s youngest billionaire as a result. Betting that gas prices would rise after Hurricane Katrina made him millions.

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Arnold, and his wife Laura, who is educated at Harvard and Yale, are selling a bill of goods that political activism is somehow to be considered “philanthropy” after if they were donating to legitimate charities. Their own web site identifies more than $830 million they’ve given to hundreds of organizations, most of them are biased research groups whose work is used by the left in public policy debates.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions will be holding hearings this coming week regarding drug prices. The Arnolds are undisclosed sponsors of the hearings; they financed the report that will be the focus of the hearing. Additionally, the Arnold Foundation funds three groups that will provide witnesses, Patients for Affordable Drugs, a special section of the National Academies of Science that investigates drug costs, and the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. Essentially, the entire hearing is AstroTurf purchased by the money of these two billionaires.

The Arnolds gave $3.8 million to the National Academies of Science, of which $750,00 went to a study on patients’ access to affordable medicine, and another $3.5 million went to Bioethics International, which financed some of the research. They also donated a half million to Patients for Affordable Drugs, a group known for orchestrating a smear campaign against several biopharmeceutical companies responsible for developing groundbreaking treatments for many health issues.

The research paper, funded by the Arnolds, offers many recommendations that could limit patients access to needed medication. The paper suggests a variety of price caps, and anti-competitive policies that wold stifle innovation and lead preventing new drugs of the future from coming on the market. Many of those involved in the research academically list the Arnolds as financial benefactors. Don’t expect any of this to disclosed in the hearing. It would be scandalous, and reported widely in the media, if the major pharmaceutical companies had done anything like this in their research.

The Arnolds have financed many efforts to stifle progress and innovation in the pharmaceutical industry. They’ve donated almost $20 million to the Institute for Clinical Economic Review, known as ICER, a Boston-based group that claims to be an industry watchdog, that is known for issuing misleading reports about drug companies. Reports from ICER have been questioned by many credible patient group over the years.

The Arnolds fund many efforts against the pharmaceutical companies, that are given the appearance of objectivity. They gave major donations to Kaiser Health News, totaling more than $1.2 million between 2016 and 2018. That was about 8 percent of KHN’s budget during those three years, as shown by the tax filings of the Kaiser Foundation.

The donations raise serious questions about the credibility of Kaiser Health News, given the Arnolds’ activism. Jay Hancock, a reporter for Kaiser Health News, wrote a piece in October with the headline, “Do Pharma’s Claims on Drug Prices Pass the Smell Test? We Found 5 Stinkers.” The piece of alleged reporting was clearly advocacy journalism. Perhaps it should have come with a disclaimer disclosing the funding from the Arnolds.

This pattern of behind the scenes advocacy by the Arnolds isn’t restricted to the health care industry. The Arnolds have spent millions to undermine public pensions and go after teachers’ unions. They even tried to discredit science itself, by funding a group of rogue scholars devoted to trashing other scientists. One project, funded by the Arnolds, sought to discredit the U.S. Dietary Guidelines; that project was exposed by other nutrition experts and a member of Congress.

The Arnolds clearly have biased political motives in that which they advocate as well as what they undermine and oppose. They have an agenda they attempt to disguise as objective and non-biased. Why would someone, who got his start with a company as discredited as Enron, put so much effort into discrediting the work of others? Why should the Arnolds have any credibility themselves?

 

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