What’s Wrong with a Big, Fat Grant for Obama Pal Dr. Eric Whitaker?
May 15, 2012 - 2:43 pm
Does somebody owe the University of Chicago Medical Center something, or are they just incredibly lucky? The Dept. of HHS has awarded them a big, fat grant of $5.9 million, chosen from thousands of applicants. There is a lot of speculation today about how this could happen and the lucky recipient, Obama buddy Dr. Eric Whitaker, who operates their UHI (Urban Health Initiative).
Before speculating, maybe we should take a look back to 2008 when Dr. Whitaker secured this job, with a little help from his friends. Start watching at the 1:35 mark. Reading from the June 30, 2008 Sun Times, the subject of this video seems to have no problem putting it all together, does he?
There also seemed to be a lot of questioning about how the UC Medical Center’s “patient dumping” program operated, and Dr. Whitaker had a hand in that as well, along with the entire Obama gang. Maybe you’ll remember a few tidbits about that program and just how well it benefited the citizens of south Chicago.
From the American Spectator, July ’09:
It wasn’t just Obama’s wife who was involved in creating the program. Senior White House adviser and political strategist, David Axelrod, and his PR firm in Chicago were retained to develop a media campaign to encourage area residents not to use University of Chicago as a medical facility. Senior White House official, and Obama friend, Valerie Jarrett served on the board of directors of the hospital and approved the plan for the Urban Health Initiative, and the hiring of Axelrod. And on the recommendation of then Senator Obama, Dr. Eric Whitaker, was named director of the Initiative in late 2007, after serving as the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, a job he got after Obama recommended him to then Gov. Rod Blagojevich via another Obama crony, Tony Rezko, a fund-raiser for Obama and now a convicted felon on federal corruption charges. Candidate Obama thought enough of the program to tout it as an example of how health care reform should be done.
From American Thinker, March ’09:
The resultant PR campaign was a study in Orwellian audacity. Chicago’s inner city residents soon began hearing that UCMC’s patient dumping program would “dramatically improve health care for thousands of South Side residents” and that the medical center was generously willing to provide “a ride on a shuttle bus to other centers.” Likewise, the people who ran the community hospitals to which these unwanted patients were being shuttled began to read claims in local media to the effect that the Urban Health Initiative was good for them as well. Dr. Eric Whitaker, the Blagojevich crony who succeeded Mrs. Obama as Director of the program, repeatedly assured gullible reporters that the financial impact on these hospitals would be positive: “The initiative actually is improving their bottom lines.” The CFOs of those hospitals were no doubt relieved to learn that treating Medicaid and uninsured patients is profitable.
And from the Washington Post, August ’08:
Opinion research showed that a small but passionate group of people already considered the hospital to be elitist, arrogant and lacking in “cultural empathy” for the surrounding economically depressed South Side neighborhood, according to a draft report obtained by The Washington Post. Some doctors in focus groups dismissed local health clinics as “wholly inadequate.”
More from that piece:
The vast majority of political contributions from university employees have gone to Democrats, and over the past nine years they have donated at least $373,000 to Barack Obama’s campaigns, records show. The university’s executive suites are home to a number of the couple’s closest friends and financial backers.
The medical center’s chairwoman, Valerie Jarrett, is a close friend and top adviser who travels frequently with Barack Obama. One of Barack’s best friends, Eric Whitaker, is executive vice president at the center and is now in charge of the Urban Health Initiative. Hospital board member Kelly R. Welsh is executive vice president at Northern Trust Co., which extended the couple a $1.3 million home mortgage shortly after Barack Obama was elected to the U.S. Senate. Dan Shomon, Barack Obama’s former campaign manager, is a university lobbyist. Jarrett, Whitaker, Welsh and Shomon all declined to be interviewed or did not respond to requests.
More recently, in September 2011, Whitaker had some problems with fraud charges concerning grants received by areas he oversaw, although he was not charged:
Under Whitaker, the Illinois Department of Public Health awarded Margaret A. Davis — the former program director of the Chicago Chapter of the National Black Nurses Association — a no-bid contract and seven AIDS- and cancer-related grants that became part of her $500,000 cash-siphoning scheme, prosecutors say.
According to federal subpoenas and other records, Davis’ June 9 indictment by a federal grand jury in Springfield is part of a larger criminal investigation involving the health department and other state agencies.
Whitaker — who’s now a top executive at the University of Chicago Medical Center — has not been accused of any wrongdoing. He says he couldn’t have known about the problems the Davis indictment describes and that he and his staff acted quickly when they became aware of problems with other contractors.
Since 2009 and as recently as March, federal authorities have sent the health department a total of four subpoenas seeking information on a broad range of “faith-based initiatives” and health-outreach programs that Whitaker oversaw. Those subpoenas name seven organizations — including Davis’ National Black Nurses Association — which, in all, got more than $2 million under Whitaker.
It seems like the Urban Health Initiative (UHI) by UC would not be the best place for us to invest tax payer dollars, all considered. It’s hard to see why they would be chosen from a field of thousands. Maybe it’s the fabulous speakers they have on campus these days, like this April appearance by Van Jones on his “Rebuilding the Dream” tour. Or maybe it’s something more.