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Senate Finance Committee Health Care Influence Cluster: The Democrats

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Last week, I took a look at the circle of former staffers turned health care lobbyists that surround Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus. The Senate Finance Committee is one of the two central committees in the Senate charged with formulating health care reform legislation. Knowing the connections to the health care lobby of all committee members provides us with a glimpse into whom may have access to shape the forthcoming legislation. In continuing with mapping Baucus' connections, below you'll find a map of all the committee Democrats and their connections, through former staffers turned health care lobbyists, to various health care lobbies:

The map shows only ten of the thirteen committee Democrats, as OpenSecrets.org does not report any staffers turned health care lobbyists for Sens. Jay Rockefeller, Jeff Bingaman or Bill Nelson. These ten Democrats are connected to a total of 20 former staffers turned health care lobbyists. Sen. Baucus leads all of the committee Democrats with five health care lobbyist connections and Sen. Chuck Schumer and Tom Carper both have three connections.

These 20 staffers represent approximately 91 different organizations, often overlapping in the clients they handle. The overlap usually occurs when the health care lobbyists are employed at the same firm. This can be seen clearly with David Castagnetti, Sen. Baucus' former chief of staff, and Kelly Bingel, Sen. Blanche Lincoln's former chief of staff. Both Castagnetti and Bingel work for Mehlmen Vogel Castagnetti Inc. and handle nearly all the same clients.

The organizations represented by these 20 health care lobbyists include some of the biggest opponents to center piece of President Obama's health care plan: the public option. These include the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, PhRMA, and various pharmaceutical, medical device and insurance companies. The Senate Finance Committee is seen as the biggest obstacle to the public option.

When it comes to money from the health care and insurance industries, Sen. John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic nominee for president, leads the pack. For senators who have not run for the presidency, which requires raising exhorbitant amounts of money, Sen. Baucus is ahead of other committee Democrats with Sens. Schumer and Kent Conrad following close behind. See the table below:

Senator2008 Health SectorCareer Health Sector2008 Insurance SectorCareer Insurance Sector
MAX BAUCUS (D-MT)$1,148,775.00$2,797,381.00$285,850.00$1,170,313.00
JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER IV (D-WV)$515,150.00$1,674,229.00$107,874.00$394,074.00
KENT CONRAD (D-ND)$117,350.00$1,331,363.00$56,650.00$821,187.00
JEFF BINGAMAN (D-NM)$14,151.00$861,841.00$1,500.00$160,875.00
JOHN F. KERRY (D-MA)$289,430.00$8,145,141.00$90,250.00$1,397,367.00
BLANCHE L. LINCOLN (D-AR)$226,753.00$1,281,608.00$49,500.00$440,033.00
RON WYDEN (D-OR)$96,925.00$1,161,488.00$45,999.00$229,173.00
CHARLES E. SCHUMER (D-NY)$10,000.00$1,402,358.00$3,000.00$946,400.00
DEBBIE STABENOW (D-MI)$239,018.00$1,188,186.00$40,800.00$246,750.00
MARIA CANTWELL (D-WA)$48,951.00$573,076.00$12,300.00$80,850.00
BILL NELSON (D-FL)$60,015.00$1,163,210.00$22,500.00$520,016.00
ROBERT MENENDEZ (D-NJ)$81,650.00$1,216,476.00$67,450.00$458,679.00
THOMAS CARPER (D-DE)$15,450.00$452,000.00$28,700.00$447,984.00

For Senate Finance Committee Democrats, the connections to the health care industry are wide and deep. Campaign contributions are high and staffers easily jump ship to lobby their former bosses. The impact of these influence measures are sure to be felt in the debate over the form of health care reform.

Stay tuned later this week as we look at the other side of the committee: the Republicans.

Technical Notes: The "Gmap" interface is courtesy of Google and the UCL Google Maps Image Cutter. The graph/map was generated using the Graph library of Nodebox.