I Got a Charlie Baker Mailer

Baker will “fight for” the billionaires


By Will Meyer

Charlie Baker smiles like a liar. Look for yourself.

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Well, OK, I didn’t say he was a liar. What his slick smile means is difficult to sum up objectively—and journalists are supposed to be “objective.” So no further comment on his smile. But journalists are also supposed to tell readers when politicians and/or their operatives—or, in this case, a political action committee that is legally forbidden from “coordinating” with the Baker campaign—are fudging the truth, aka LYING.

I recently received a glossy mailer positioning Baker as some type of left-wing populist on the issue of prescription drug prices. “Day in and day out Governor Charlie Baker is fighting for lower prescription drug prices,” the mailer reads. On the back it continues, “Charlie Baker has stayed independent from Big Pharma so he can fight for us.” [emphasis mine]

First of all, Baker—who, like his Democratic opponent Jay Gonzalez, used to be a healthcare executive—hasn’t stayed independent from “Big Pharma.” In fact, The Boston Globe noted that Governor Baker and Lt. Gov Karyn Polito received $7,500 from the Massachusetts-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals in March. Not long after they cashed their checks, Baker publicly defended Vertex’s exorbitant prices for cystic fibrosis medication, suggesting the company had a right to recoup their investment. Meanwhile, 29 physicians and scientists signed a letter calling the high prices—$300,000 per patient—“unseemly.” And it should come as no shock to learn that Vertex executives, despite claiming the high prices were used for research, took home millions in compensation. Likewise, donors from other pharmaceuticals firms, including Pfzier and Cambridge-based Biogen, also gave to Baker’s campaign, according to MassLive. In other words, the claim that Baker is independent from the pharmaceutical industry, or that he will stand up to them, is simply false.

Secondly, note the last six words in the phrase from the mailer: “so he can fight for us.” If you were wondering who paid for the ad, it wasn’t the people of Massachusetts who had saved money thanks to Baker standing up to The Man. No, the “us” Baker will fight for is John and Laura Arnold, philanthropists from Texas. John Arnold is a hedge-funder who, according to the New York Times, specialized in energy trading after he got rich at Enron. Laura Arnold is a corporate lawyer. The Arnolds are spending $500,000 through a political action committee (PAC) to re-elect Baker on the issue of drug prices. But that isn’t the only issue close to the hearts of this power couple. The Arnolds have played a leading role in the fight to dismantle public pensions, including attempting to fund a PBS series designed to raise questions about their sustainability. PBS returned the money after receiving criticism. They have also tried to clandestinely fund “journalism” about drug prices.

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Yup, this is just another cynical attempt to appropriate left-wing rhetoric in the service of elites winning the class war. But this is significant because it reveals the strain of conservatism Charlie Baker has built his brand on, and the type of billionaire bullshit the Arnolds are banking on. Instead of employing nativism and xenophobia to appeal to legitimate economic grievances, they are actually appealing to legitimate economic grievances. It’s no coincidence that Charlie Baker remains, as of last week, the most popular governor in the country and that the cost of healthcare is the most important issue to voters, according to recent polling.

So if you hear a radio ad or get a glossy mailer saying Charlie Baker is going to stand up to the drug companies, just remember he never said that (and probably won’t do that, given his track record). That is John and Laura Arnold’s opinion. If you think he’ll “fight for us,” he will. Just keep in mind you need to be a billionaire to be included in the “us.”


Will Meyer is co-editor of The Shoestring.