WASHINGTON — Two top Colorado Democratic operatives are in charge of the public relations campaign for the state’s health-insurance exchange under Obamacare.
Mike Melanson and Ben Davis were the campaign manager and deputy campaign manager, respectively, for both Sen. Mark Udall in 2008 and Gov. John Hickenlooper in 2010. The two are the founders of On Sight Public Affairs, a Denver-based public relations company.
Their four-year-old firm is in charge of public relations for Connect for Health Colorado, which is the online exchange for those seeking to buy private health insurance in accord with the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.
OnSight Public Affairs’s clients include a who’s-who of Democratic campaigns and liberal organization. According to the company’s website, the list includes Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Golden, and the Colorado Environmental Coalition. The firm also co-sponsored a poll in September 2012 of the contest between President Obama and Mitt Romney in Colorado.
The company’s website includes project and campaign management, strategic planning, and website design and development as among its specialties. Also, it notes that Melanson and Davis are “known for their low-key approach to high-profile issues” and that their company “prides itself on delivering on time, with high quality products for their clients.”
Melanson and Davis did not return an email message for comment.
State- and federal-based insurance exchanges, which were designed to be the orbitz.com or expedia.com for private health insurance plans, opened their online doors to participants Oct. 1.
Colorado is one of 14 states in addition to the District of Columbia that operates its own exchange.
Having two Democratic operatives in charge of the public relations campaign for the state insurance marketplace has raised eyebrows among some conservatives.
Tyler Q. Houlton, a spokesman for the National Republican Campaign Committee, said Melanson and Davis’ work was “a conflict of interest.”
Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, had a different view. She said Melanson and Davis’ work was no different from that of other political strategists.
“I don’t think it’s problematic at all. It’s not unusual for political operatives to work for all sorts of issues, corporate or other issues … They do the same work. It’s just a different client,” Sloan said in an interview.
Colorado state officials have not released updated figures on the number of people who have signed up for or received coverage under Obamacare since Oct. 7. Of the 14 states with its own exchange, Colorado is tied for second to last with the least updated figures.