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Health care lobbying groups head to the Supreme Court

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US Supreme CourtIf war is politics by other means, so is litigation. While there will be plenty of rhetoric today about President Obama's health care law on the second anniversary of its signing -- including a new op-ed by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who was for the health care reform in Massachusetts before he was against it nationally --  the big battle begins Monday, when the Supreme Court opens an unusual three days of argument over the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

In many respects, the mega-case -- a compilation of six separate cases that have been wending through the judicial system -- represents the latest development in the continuous effort by powerful interests to influence the health care law by petitioning Congress, regulators and the courts. Of the more than 130 parties that filed briefs, some are familiar faces: at least 16 show up on a list Open Secrets compiled of organizations that disclosed lobbying on the health care legislation.

Sunlight took a look at some of the players who are represented in the case the justices will hear next week and their money and influence profiles. Note that the total amount of money spent on lobbying covers all issues in 2011, not just healthcare. 

In support of the health care law:

Oppose:

  • Among organizations that lobbied on the health care bill and filed briefs before the Supreme Court on the law's constitutionality, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has by far the biggest profile on Capitol Hill, at least in terms of dollars spent. So far in this Congress, the venerable business group has spent $62.2 million lobbying on health care and other issues. Declares a statement on website:, "the Chamber supports the repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" in case the law is not struck down, the Chamber would like to overturn provisions such as the employer mandate.
  • The Family Research Council a conservative, Christian group that advocates against abortion and same-sex marriage, has spent $107,000 in lobbying this cycle. It is concerned about the bill's potential  coverage of abortion and the requirement that Americans buy health insurance. "We have high hopes that the Supreme Court will recognize that the individual mandate is unconstitutional, and will act to safeguard the freedoms of all Americans by holding the individual mandate 'nonseverable,' and strike down every part of Obamacare," said FRC legal counsel Ken Klukowski has stated.
  • Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who brought one of the cases to overturn the health care law, has collected some $3.7 million in political contributions since 2003, including $35,000 from Citizens United, the group whose successful challenge to campaign finance regulations set the state for the creation of super PACs, and $30,000 from Altria, the food and tobacco consortium that has spent more than $11 million lobbying this Congress on taxes, tobacco, health care and other issues.

Severability:

The Affordable Care Act is a mixed bag for many interests. For insurers, the worst case scenario would be if the courts throw out the mandate for Americans to buy health insurance while still requiring insurance companies to cover people with preexisting conditions, which could lower their revenue while raising costs. For these companies, the biggest concern is whether the rest of the law can stand if the individual mandate is struck down.

  • America's Health Insurance Plan (AHIP), the trade association representing insurance companies, has spent $9.7 million lobbying on this cycle on all of its issues. Its major interest in the court cases is severability. The group argues it was not the intent of Congress to have the law stand without the mandate. AHIP is a client of heavyweight legal and lobbying firm, Akin Gump, which so far this cycle has raked in $25 million in lobbying fees for a blue-chip client list that includes Dow Chemical, General Electric and Shell Oil.
  • American Benefits Council represents a multitude of large corporations from AstraZeneca to Xerox, and describes itself as the "most effective advocate for employer-sponsored benefit plans." It has spent just under $1 million lobbying this cycle. In its brief, it raised concerns about severing the personal mandate and the employer mandate to purchase health insurance from the rest of the bill.
  • The National Restaurant Association spent $2.5 million lobbying this cycle. It states on its website, that it has a "strong concern about the impact of the health care law on the restaurant industry." Its main issue with the court is severability.