by Charles Lemos, Mon Dec 28, 2009 at 05:20:00 PM EST
Northwestern University's Medill News Service in partnership with the Tribune Newspapers Washington Bureau and the Center for Responsive Politics have released their analysis of the revolving door in the healthcare debate. OpenSecrets' Revolving Door database tracks anyone whose résumé includes positions of influence in both the private and public sectors and tracks the shuffle of individuals who were former federal employees and then take jobs as lobbyists, corporate consultants and legislative strategists as well as hired guns who then return to work in government helping to craft legislation.
The fact is that a stint on Capitol Hill as a legislative aide often leads to a more lucrative perch in the land of tasseled loafers known as K Street. For example, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has 14 of his former employees now working for the US Chamber of Commerce, Pharmaceutical Research and the National Association of Manufacturers, and Verizon while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has 13 former staffers who now lobby for clients including the US Chamber of Commerce and Pharmaceutical Research. In the healthcare debate, at least 14 former aides to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and at least 13 former aides to Montana Democratic Senator Max Baucus, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee served as registered lobbyists lobbying their former bosses and their colleagues.
At least 166 former aides from the nine congressional leadership offices and five committees involved in shaping health overhaul legislation -- along with at least 13 former lawmakers -- registered to represent at least 338 health care clients since the beginning of last year, according to the analysis.
Their health care clients spent $635 million on lobbying over the past two years, the study shows.
The total of insider lobbyists jumps to 278 when non-health-care firms that reported lobbying on health issues are added in, the analysis found.
Part of the lobbying pressure on current members of Congress and staffers comes from the powerful lure of post-congressional job possibilities.
"There's always a worry they may be thinking about their future employment opportunities when dealing with these issues, particularly with health care, because the stakes are so high and the breadth of the issues -- pharmacies, hospitals, doctors," said Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz.
Lobbyists' earnings can dwarf congressional salaries, which currently top out at $174,000 annually for lawmakers and $156,000 for aides, though committee staff members can earn slightly more.
In the health care showdown, insider lobbying influence has magnified the clout of corporate interests and helped steer the debate away from a public insurance option, despite many polls indicating majority support from Americans, according to Rutgers University political scientist Ross Baker.
"It imposes a kind of conservative bias on the discussion," said Baker, himself a former Senate staffer.
Breaking it down by Senate or House Committee, the numbers are eye-opening. Forty-five former staffers of the members of the Senate Committee on Health Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) are now lobbying. Their clients include the Chamber of Commerce, Exxon Mobil, AARP, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers, General Electric, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Verizon, AT&T, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. Thirty-six current lobbyists are veterans of the Senate Finance Committee. They now represent the Chamber of Commerce, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturesrs, General Electric, and Blue Cross/Blue Shield.
Over in the House of Representatives, the House Energy and Commerce Committee has 45 former staffers now working as lobbyists, the Ways and Means Committee 23, and House Education and Labor trails with just 18.