A One-Two Punch of Contribution Clusters
by Charles Lemos, Thu Oct 01, 2009 at 09:00:04 PM EDT
An article published in the UK Guardian provides an overview of the lobbying effort conducted by insurance companies, pharmaceutical firms and hospitals dedicated to ensuring that healthcare reform proposals don't threaten their profits. All told, these industry and interest groups have spent $380 million trying to influence healthcare legislation through lobbying, advertising and in direct political contributions to members of Congress.
The Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Responsive Politics have teamed up on a collaborative investigative project that has uncovered never-before-seen webs of campaign contributions from outside lobbyists and their clients, who are all important players in the health care reform, to key members of Congress.
Their investigation identified outside lobbyists who donated to the same members of Congress as their clients. Their findings strongly suggest that special interest giving is enhanced by the K Street contributors they hire. Call it a one-two punch aimed at TKOing a public option.
Senator Max Baucus, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and the author of one of the health care reform bills now being debated in the Senate, was the biggest beneficiaries of this one-two punch from the lobbyists and their clients. From January 2007 through June 2009, Senator Baucus collected contributions from 37 outside lobbyists representing PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry's chief trade association, and 36 lobbyists who listed drug maker Amgen Inc. as their client. Overall Senator Baucus has received $1.5 million from the health sector towards his re-election coffers.
In all, 11 major health and insurance firms had their contributions to Senator Baucus boosted through extra donations from 10 or more of their outside lobbyists. You can see all these curious clusters of cash at Open Secrets.
Beyond the noxious effect of all that cash, the health industry has permeated the process in other ways. At Senator Baucus's side, helping to draft the wording of the Baucuscare, was Liz Fowler, a Senate committee counsel whose previous position was as Vice President of Public Policy and External Affairs of the country's largest health insurer in terms of membership, WellPoint. Ms. Fowler worked at WellPoint from May 2006 through February 2008, according to the company. She previously worked for Senator Baucus from 2001 to 2005. Something about a revolving door comes to mind.