The Greg Packer of small business

Drew Greenblatt's frequent press hits usually omit National Association of Manufacturers ties

Drew Greenblatt may be the most quoted small businessman in America.

When reporters need small-businessman quotes, Fox needs small-businessman interviews, and Congress needs small-businessman testimony, they turn to Greenblatt quite frequently.

In the month and a half before he testified to Congress last week on how the Affordable Care Act will affect his health care costs, Greenblatt has appeared in The Wall Street Journal in two separate articles, in the Carroll County Times, and in Politico. His opinion pieces have run in Inc., the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Palm Beach Daily News, Baltimore Business Journal and he co-signed, along with the likes of Hank Greenberg, a petition in an ad pushing approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The flurry of coverage after his testimony to the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship about how Obamacare is raising his costs included hits in the Washington Post (twice), the Baltimore Sun, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Voice of Russia, and the Baltimore Business Journal.

Video of Greenblatt’s testimony went into rotation on Fox News, obviously, and he later appeared in person on the network’s “On the Record” with Greta Van Susteren:

All this for a guy who employs 25 workers at a Baltimore-based manufacturer of wire baskets. Not bad.

What none of these outlets, save the Times-Pic bothered to mention is that Greenblatt isn’t just some everyman small-business owner: He’s on the board of the National Association of Manufacturers, the powerful right-wing business lobby—in fact his testimony was on behalf of NAM. He’s chairman of a lobbying group called the National Alliance for Jobs and Innovation, “comprised of more than 100 U.S. companies and associations, including AIMS 360, Marlin Steel, Microsoft and the National Association of Manufacturers.” It’s egregious for journalists not to disclose these affiliations.

Nor is this flurry of “regular Joe” press unusual. Greenblatt has been a go-to source in the press for years now and his lobbying-group connections are almost never disclosed. I first wrote about Greenblatt a year and a half ago when The New York Times quoted him pushing the business-lobby meme that firms just can’t find workers these days, despite all the unemployed people out there.

That piece was Greenblatt’s third appearance in the Times in as many months and he’d been on NBC Nightly News, PBS NewsHour, NPR and more already that summer. I called him the “Greg Packer of small manufacturers.”

It’s worse than that, really. Greg Packer, as far as I can tell, isn’t part of a giant lobbying organization.

On Fox and in his Inc. column, Greenblatt pushes the news that his insurance company quoted him a 49 percent price hike this year because of Obamacare. He never mentions on either that he got a new plan for a less eye-popping 10 percent more than last year—with increased benefits.

The Washington Post, which quoted Greenblatt in its story headlined, “Small business owners to Congress: I liked my health care plan just fine — and now it’s gone,” mentions it, but flubs it all the same:

Due to the cancellations, employers like Drew Greenblatt have been left searching for a new plan to replace the one he liked and lost.

“My old plan was a good, quality product that I liked very much, but we were forced to give it up,” Greenblatt, who owns Marlin Steel Wire Products, a small manufacturing company in Baltimore, Md., wrote in the testimony he submitted during the hearing. “I was repeatedly assured the ACA did not apply to me and that I would be able to keep my plan - that is simply not my experience.”

Instead, Greenblatt was left hunting for a new plan. And the one he eventually selected comes with several new benefits he didn’t want and a 10 percent increase in his premiums.

First, the Post is just incorrect that Greenblatt’s policy was canceled, and Greenblatt is wrong to imply it. He chose not to renew it because of the premium increases. Second, we’re never told what the “several new benefits he didn’t want” are. Much of the point of Obamacare is to force insurers to cover things they didn’t always used to cover, like maternity, birth control, prescription drugs, and mental health.

But that 10 percent increase? Outrageous, right?

How quickly we forget that the pre-ACA healthcare market was an expensive mess. Greenblatt himself told Congress his premiums were going up 8 to 12 percent a year before Obamacare—and Maryland’s small-business insurance exchange isn’t even open yet.

So he got an average premium increase and his employees got extra benefits their boss didn’t think they needed—what’s the problem here, again? No one tells us and most don’t even note his pre-Obamacare price hikes.

In his Inc. column, Greenblatt pushes the 49 percent increase he didn’t pay and doesn’t note the 10 percent he did. But he did find space to mention some other business-lobby friendly recommendations on what to do about health care, including tort reform, lower taxes, and this:

Let us choose, not Washington, how many services we will get in our health plan.”

Which would essentially repeal the entire Affordable Care Act. Now it could be entirely coincidence, but that lines up neatly with what the National Association of Manufacturers wants.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,