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Rick Santorum, when he’s not opining about the news for his job as a CNN contributor, has been working to get a new bill passed that will roll back Obamacare and radically overhaul the country’s health care system.
Santorum, a former U.S. senator and presidential candidate, worked with Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy to help craft the health care bill known informally as Graham-Cassidy, Politico reported on Thursday. “Santorum and Cassidy worked on the policy in the Graham-Cassidy bill,” according to the report. “Graham played the salesman, courting the White House and GOP governors — and complained jokingly but often about getting bogged down in policy minutiae.” (Santorum was spotted in the Senate on Tuesday.)
The Graham-Cassidy effort began this summer, and the bill has been gaining momentum in recent days. All the while, Santorum has maintained his position at the network, a somewhat unusual development considering that ex-politicos are generally forced to leave their contributor gigs when they get back in the game.
Most recently, when Mercedes Schlapp took a job in the White House communications shop, Fox News terminated her contributor contract, a spokeswoman told The Hollywood Reporter at the time. Santorum, though, does not have an official government position.
“We mention his role in the Graham/Cassidy bill during his appearances,” a spokeswoman for CNN said when asked about Santorum’s involvement in active political legislation.
There’s also a disclosure placed on Santorum’s op-ed pieces, including one published on Tuesday that hits out at a critic of the Graham-Cassidy bill, Sen. Rand Paul. “Rick Santorum is a former Republican senator from Pennsylvania and a contributor to CNN,” an editor’s note says. “He has worked closely with the Senate sponsors on the drafting of the Graham-Cassidy legislation. The views expressed here are solely his.”
Santorum came on CNN’s Sunday morning show on Sept. 17 to discuss health care, among other topics. “Senator, you’ve been working hard on this,” CNN’s Dana Bash said to Santorum. “Is it going to happen or are you going to get 50 votes from Republicans?” He replied, “I think we are closing in.”
But, while Bash mentioned Santorum’s involvement, she did so casually, and his role was not mentioned when he was introduced for the segment. A Tuesday segment on CNN’s At This Hour was a little more transparent. Anchor Kate Bolduan kicked to Santorum and said, “Senator, I must start with you because you were very much involved in the conception of this health care plan.” (In a chyron for an appearance on Friday afternoon, Santorum was identified as “one of the architects of the GOP bill.”)
A CNN source said Santorum is not the network’s only politically active contributor, though his involvement goes beyond partisan strategy to actual legislative activity. Santorum, in the Politico story, said that his original concept for an Obamacare repeal back in March is the basis for the Graham-Cassidy bill.
The network might also see Santorum’s involvement with the bill as a benefit, since his commentary is even more newsworthy. And, he can help the network combat charges that it is aligned against the administration’s priorities.
But Santorum’s dual roles have raised some eyebrows on social media. “Why is Santorum appearing on @CNN and writing #GrahamCassidy,” one user wrote on Twitter. “Rick Santorum, not a senator, is writing health care legislation while CNN is paying him to give his opinion about it on air,” wrote another.
Former New York Times reporter Stuart Elliott pitched the topic as a story for CNN’s Sunday morning show about the media industry. “Given Rick Santorum’s involvement in cobbling Graham-Cassidy, .@ReliableSources, is @CNN still having him on?” Elliott asked. “Adding disclosure?”
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