Lobbying Draws on Ranks Of Former Government Officials, Health Industry Coffers
"The nation's largest insurers, hospitals and medical groups have hired more than 350 former government staff members and retired members of Congress in hopes of influencing their old bosses and colleagues, according to an analysis of lobbying disclosures and other records," the Washington Post reports. The Post's analysis of lobbying disclosure records shows that three-quarters of major health firms have hired an insider to lobby on their behalf; half of those insiders once worked for the key senators and congressional committees that are now shaping the reform proposals.
The Post says: "Nearly half of the insiders previously worked for the key committees and lawmakers, including Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), debating whether to adopt a public insurance option opposed by major industry groups. At least 10 others have been members of Congress, such as former House majority leaders Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.) and Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.), both of whom represent a New Jersey pharmaceutical firm. The hirings are part of a record-breaking influence campaign by the health-care industry, which is spending more than $1.4 million a day on lobbying in the current fight, according to disclosure records ... A June 10 meeting between aides to Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and health-care lobbyists included two former Baucus chiefs of staff: David Castagnetti, whose clients include PhRMA and America's Health Insurance Plans, and Jeffrey A. Forbes, who represents PhRMA, Amgen, Genentech, Merck and others"
"The senator and his staff meet daily with individuals, nonprofits and interests from across the health-care spectrum, and are proud that all interests are treated equally and that no one receives special treatment of any kind," Baucus spokesman Scott Mulhauser told the Post.
The paper reports: "The aim of the lobbying blitz is simple: to minimize the damage to insurers, hospitals and other major sectors while maximizing the potential of up to 46 million uninsured Americans as new customers. Although many firms have vowed to help cut costs, major players such as PhRMA, America's Health Insurance Plans and others remain opposed to the public-insurance option, a key proposal that President Obama has endorsed." The feature includes a graphic that shows how 41 lobbyists are connected to specific members of the Senate Finance Committee (Eggen and Kindy, 7/6).
Meanwhile, Politico looked into pharmaceutical lobbying: "Having struck a bargain with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the industry is aggressively targeting individual House Democrats, warning of repercussions in the 2010 elections if they go along with a tougher set of savings advocated by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) ... What Baucus agreed to specifically in his June 20 bargain is still in some dispute. But PhRMA is bluntly telling House moderates that the senator will oppose the rebates demanded by Waxman and that the smart move is to kill that provision outright and save themselves political pain in 2010" (Rogers, 7/6).
Medical firms aren't the only ones weighing in on the reform debate. One proposal to finance reform is a new tax on soda, beer and wine, the Associated Press/Palm Beach Post reports, calling to action beverage industry lobbyists as well as lobbyists for "[a]dvertisers, corn refiners -- even addiction treatment centers." The lobbying surge reflects "a tax increase for a handful of popular products can reverberate broadly across Washington's interest groups" (Fram 7/6).