Health Care Industry Operates Shadow Congress of Lobbyists

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The Washington Post reports today that the health care industry, in its attempt to influence the debate over health care reform, has hired at least 350 former government staffers and former members of Congress to lobby on the issue. With the many connections these former government workers have, particularly former members of Congress or congressional chiefs of staff, they will have near saturation coverage of the 535 current members of Congress. They also are operating with seemingly bottomless funding. The industry is currently spending $1.4 million a week on lobbying. Perhaps, the most unparrelled lobbying campaign ever.

Now the Post story has a few caveats that indicate that this lobbying campaign is probably larger than their reporting shows. For one:

The analysis identified more than 350 former government aides, each representing an average of four firms or trade groups. That tally does not include lobbyists who did not report their earlier government experience, such as PhRMA President W.J. “Billy” Tauzin, a former Republican congressman from Louisiana. Federal law does not require providing such detail.

Lobbying disclosure reports contain a field for listing prior government work, but this field is often left empty by lobbyists with government experience. If someone like Billy Tauzin, who is the poster boy for everything wrong with the revolving door, does not list his previous work as a leading lawmaker, what hope do we have for the many lesser former government workers to list their previous government work. I’d assume that the number of former government employees working in this campaign far exceeds 350.

One other aspect of the story highlights something which we’ve discussed here, lobbying contacts. The real problem with the revolving door is the unusual amount of access that former government officials, particularly members of Congress, have to current government officials. And that includes the ability to meet, call, or email with staffers or lawmakers to push their client’s agenda. Of course, Congress does not require any disclosure of lobbying contacts, thus obscuring the role that these 350+ lobbyists are having in the process of crafting a health care reform bill that will affect everyone in the country.

If you want to see other reporting on the network of former government staffers turned health care lobbyists, we’ve been looking at the Senate Finance Committee — “the central broker in the [health care] debate,” according to the Post — and the connections each lawmaker has with health care lobbyists. You can see our visualization of Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus’ connections or our visualization of all Senate Finance Committee Democrats and their connections. I’ll be posting about the Senate Finance Committee Republicans this week.

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