Report Details Lawmakers' 'One-Two Punch' in Health-Care Donations
Updated 2:29 p.m.
By Dan Eggen
The health-care industry is already one of the leading contributors to Congress, but a new study finds that health-care lobbyists add to the industry's clout by giving money to many of the same lawmakers themselves.
A joint study released Thursday by the Center for Responsive Politics and the Sunlight Foundation found that lawmakers including Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) and Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) all received significant contributions from lobbyists and the health-care firms they represent.
Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and author of the main health-care bill now under consideration in Congress, "was one of the biggest beneficiaries of this one-two punch from the lobbyists and their clients," the groups report.
From January 2007 to June 2009, Baucus collected donations from 37 outside lobbyists representing the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association (PhRMA), the top drugmaker trade group. Baucus also received money from 36 lobbyists representing a single drugmaker, Amgen Inc., the study shows.
The study also combined lobbyist contributions with donations connected to health-care firms to form "lobbyist bundles," representing a web of interconnected contributions connected to a single firm or trade group. By this measurement, McConnell, the Senate minority leader, took in money from 14 separate health-care bundles while Baucus took in 11, the study found. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) led the pack with 22 bundles, though much of that money was directed toward last year's failed presidential campaign.
The patterns in the study underscore the oddball alliances and complicated politics surrounding this year's health-care debate. On the one hand, PhRMA and other major industry players have pledged to support many of the reforms -- which might grant them millions of new customers -- putting them on the side of Democrats.
"Most of the organizations listed not only don't support Senator McConnell's position on the Democrats' health-care proposals, they're running ads against his position," said Don Stewart, a McConnell spokesman.
On the other hand, the industry is aligned with Republicans on the issue of a public insurance option, which would compete with private insurers for customers and which is favored by liberal Democrats. Baucus's committee recently struck down attempts to include such an option in that panel's evolving reform bill; Baucus was among those who voted to defeat the measures.
In total, the study found, 61 members of Congress, including 39 senators, received money from 10 or more outside lobbyists whose clients also contributed to their campaigns. Perhaps reflecting the new balance of power in Washington, 62 percent of those members are Democrats.
The CRP-Sunlight Foundation study is only the latest in a series of analyses to illustrate the broad influence of the health-care industry on Capitol Hill. Data from the first half of this year showed health-care firms spending money at the rate of nearly $1.5 million a day on lobbying alone, in addition to a steady tide of campaign contributions.
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