According to First Read, Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus will announce his plans for health care reform sometime this week. Baucus and his committee are seen as the crucial stepping stone for the reform plan pushed by President Obama and congressional Democrats. The outline of Baucus' plans will likely determine the shape and fate of health care reform this year. Due to Baucus' import in the reform discussion, we decided to take a look at the circle of lobbyists surrounding both Baucus and the other committee members. By tracking former staffers turned lobbyists for committee members, we can see what other interests are involved in crafting the coming health reform compromise. Senators are not simply island unto themselves, but important pieces in a network of companies, interest groups and lobbyists trying to formulate policy. Hopefully, these visualizations help to make that a little bit clearer. You can see all of them on one page here.
Yesterday afternoon, the Center for Responsive Politics came out with a report showing how many congressional lawmakers have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars of their own money into companies that have financial stakes in which bills eventually pass and become law. CRP has found many lawmakers are heavily invested in pharmaceutical and health insurance companies, industries that are very interested in what Congress does to health care. Nearly one in four lawmakers had invested some money in health companies during 2007, the most recent year CRP calculated lawmakers' extensive personal finances. (In October, data for 2008 will be available in their personal financial disclosure database). Because lawmakers report the value of their assets in ranges, CRP can’t give exact figures. With that said, lawmakers had invested somewhere between $44.2 million and $93.9 million in health care related companies.
CRP looked closer at some of the key lawmakers who serve on the five committees that will have the most impact on the health legislation as it works through the Congress. Here’s what they found: In 2007, 54 current lawmakers serving on these committees had between $31 million and $57.9 million invested in health companies.
They quote Charles Silver, a University of Texas law professor who focuses on health care policy, saying that such investments in the past have shaped congressional debates, along with campaign contributions and the revolving door between the public and private sectors. CRP took a closer look at the investments of six of those lawmakers and asked their staff if they saw any conflict of interest. Check it out their responses here.
And if you want to see the health money going into the Senate health committee. Sunlight's new beta -- Congrelate.com -- makes that easy. Check it out
Over the past few weeks, our designer Kerry and I have visualized the health care lobbyist connections of Senate Finance Committee members. The Senate Finance Committee has emerged as the key congressional committee in the debate over President Obama's promised health care reform legislation. The committee is also packed with members with tight ties to the health care industry. By revealing the former staffers of Finance Committee members who have become lobbyists for the health care industry, we can show how close these connections are. Previously, visualizations were created highlighting Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus and the Democrats on the committee. Below is a visualization of the Senate Finance Committee Republicans and their connections to the health care industry through former staffers turned lobbyists. (view fullscreen)
(available as a large PNG file, as well)
The map shows nine out of ten committee Republicans with former staffers turned health care lobbyists. OpenSecrets.org does not report any staffers turned health care lobbyists for Sen. John Cornyn. These nine Republicans are connected to 22 different health care lobbyists.
Both Sens. Charles Grassley and Orrin Hatch have four connections to former staffers. Both senators are in powerful positions on the committee, especially as it pertains to health care legislation. Grassley is the current ranking member on the full committee and Hatch is the ranking member on the Health subcommittee. Both are also top recipients of money from the health and insurance industries. Over his career, Grassley received $1,876,479 from the health industry and $858,224 from the insurance industry. Hatch, meanwhile, pulled in $2,311,744 from the health industry and $659,307 from the insurance industry over his career.
These 22 lobbyists represent over 100 different health care organizations. Unlike with some of the lobbyists connected to committee Democrats, there is little overlap in clients. It appears that most of these staffers turned lobbyists have their own unique portfolios.
As with former staffers on the Democratic side, these lobbyists represent some of the top health care organizations lobbying in Washington. Eli Lilly, Pfizer, PhRMA, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Merck are all represented.
The money from the health and insurance industries into Republican committee member campaigns is relatively high. The insurance industry is the top contributor to Sen. Grassley's campaigns over his career. Pharmaceutical companies are the top contributors to Sen. Hatch's campaigns. In fact, every Republican committee member has a health or insurance industry as their one or more of their top five career contributors.
Campaign Contributions for Republican Members of the Senate Finance Committee
|Senator||2008 Health Sector||Career Health Sector||2008 Insurance Sector||Career Insurance Sector|
|CHUCK GRASSLEY (IA)||$334,237.00||$1,876,479.00||$72,200.00||$858,224.00|
|ORRIN G. HATCH (UT)||$122,300.00||$2,311,744.00||$24,880.00||$659,307.00|
|OLYMPIA J. SNOWE (ME)||$6,000.00||$744,640.00||$5,000.00||$408,490.00|
|JON KYL (AZ)||$68,550.00||$1,971,968.00||$2,000.00||$533,044.00|
|JIM BUNNING (KY)||$40,450.00||$1,045,687.00||$45,100.00||$769,016.00|
|MIKE CRAPO (ID)||$92,000.00||$549,192.00||$63,750.00||$360,932.00|
|PAT ROBERTS (KS)||$657,749.00||$903,337.00||$157,900.00||$296,342.00|
|JOHN ENSIGN (NV)||$16,550.00||$1,795,899.00||$19,150.00||$580,690.00|
|MIKE ENZI (WY)||$287,549.00||$612,715.00||$84,250.00||$240,953.00|
|JOHN CORNYN (TX)||$950,669.00||$1,994,353.00||$289,069.00||$568,253.00|
Over the past few weeks, we've been looking at the connections between the Senate Finance Committee and the former staffers of committee members turned health care lobbyists. Our previous posts focused solely on those connections -- one visualizing the connections to committee chair Max Baucus and another showing the connections for all Democrats. Another way to look at these connections is to look at the fundraisers these lobbyists are throwing for Finance Committee members.
After reviewing the data on Party Time, only four fundraisers for Senate Finance Committee members were found to be hosted by one of the staffers turned health care lobbyists. The four fundraisers were for three senators: Chuck Schumer, Mike Crapo, and two fundraisers for Orrin Hatch.
|Partying with the Senate Finance Committee|
|Chuck Schumer||Chuck Jones||American Council of Life Insurers, American Medical Assn, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries||04/30/2009|
|Mike Crapo||Bryan Cunningham||Eli Lilly & Co, Pfizer Inc||05/07/2009|
|Orrin Hatch||Bryan Cunningham||Eli Lilly & Co, Pfizer Inc||06/19/09|
|Orrin Hatch||Bryan Cunningham||Eli Lilly & Co, Pfizer Inc||06/26/09|
Unfortunately, the total campaign contribution data for these dates is not yet available due to reporting schedules. Also, the data from Party Time, due to the source of the data, does not always contain host information. It is without doubt that there are many more fundraisers occurring for Senate Finance Committee members with their former staffers turned lobbyists as hosts.
As I continue to take a look at congressional committees and their connections to the health care industry, I'll keep my eye on the fundraisers they are throwing for key committee members and bring that data here.
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.
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:
|Senator||2008 Health Sector||Career Health Sector||2008 Insurance Sector||Career 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.
Mapping Max Baucus' Health Care Lobbyist Complex. Click image for full visualization.
As the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Max Baucus is at the center of the congressional effort to craft health care reform legislation, a top priority of President Barack Obama. The Baucus-headed Finance Committee has been singled out by advocates and news organizations as the toughest obstacle for the President's health care priorities. Containing more moderate and conservative members may not be the only reason. The committee is packed with lawmakers who have close ties to the health care and insurance industries, receiving large campaign contributions as their former staffers turn around to lobby for the very interests whose issues -- in this case health care -- they previously worked on. Baucus, as chair, stands out in particular.
Lobbying disclosure filings for the first quarter of 2009 reveal that five of Baucus' former staffers currently work for a total of twenty-seven different organizations that are either in the health care or insurance sector or have a noted interest in the outcome. The organizations represented include some of the top lobbying organizations in the health sector: Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Researchers of America (PhRMA), America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), Amgen, and GE Health Care.
The former staffers turned lobbyists include two former chiefs of staff, David Castagnetti and Jeff Forbes, and one former legislative assistant, Scott Olsen. Other former staffers working with health care portfolios include Angela Hoffman and Roger Blauwet.
The overall health and insurance sectors haven't just been kind to Baucus' staffers, but they've also aided his campaigns handsomely over the years, especially in his barely contested 2008 reelection campaign. In 2008, Baucus received $1,148,775 from the health sector and $285,850 from the insurance sector. For his career he has received $2,797,381 from the health sector and $1,170,313 from the insurance sector.
The accompanying visualization shows the connections from Baucus to his staffers-turned-lobbyists to their health care sector clients, which, in some cases, overlap. Most of the organizations are directly involved in the health care or insurance industries. A couple, the Business Roundtable and Wal-Mart, may seem to fall outside of the realm of health care, however both are playing key roles. The Business Roundatble is lobbying heavily on the issue and Wal-Mart is a big seller of prescription medications and has a large stake in the outcome.
All data comes from OpenSecrets.org.
Today, former senators Tom Daschle and Bob Dole released a plan for health care reform that is being hailed a bipartisan way forward. Headlines blare about the Daschle/Dole plan for health care. But were these two to not have had illustrious careers in the Senate, the headlines would tell a far different story: "Health Care Lobbyists Release Health Care Plan."
Both Daschle and Dole work for a major Washington, DC lobbying firm, Alston & Bird. Many of Alston & Bird's major clients are from the health care sector including the American Hospital Association, HealthSouth Corp, and pharmaceutical companies Abbott Laboratories, Bayer, Celgene, and Mylan Laboratories. In total, Alston & Bird is currently representing 31 clients from the health care sector. Of the $2,730,000 reported income received from clients, nearly 50% of that, $1,070,000, comes from these 31 health care clients.
This looks like another benefit of the revolving door. You can release a legislative proposal from outside of Congress and the first thing anyone thinks of is your previous job and not your current one.
The following 31 companies and organizations are listed as health care sector clients of Alston & Bird:
|Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care||$40,000.00|
|American Assn of Nurse Anesthetists||$30,000.00|
|American Clinical Laboratory Assn||$10,000.00|
|American College of Gastroenterology||$50,000.00|
|American Hospital Assn||$20,000.00|
|American Orthotic & Prosthetic Assn||$30,000.00|
|Cltn of Full Service Community Hospitals||$40,000.00|
|Covenant Health System||$10,000.00|
|Fresenius Medical Care||$40,000.00|
|Generic Pharmaceutical Assn||$50,000.00|
|Health Management Assoc||$30,000.00|
|Kidney Care Council||$90,000.00|
|National Assn for Home Care||$50,000.00|
|National Assn of Behavioral Health||$20,000.00|
|Tennessee Hospital Assn||$20,000.00|
|Vision Service Plan||$50,000.00|
Jacob Weisberg has a good article up on Slate (also, Newsweek) on whether the revolving door policy instituted by President Obama is constructive. Weisberg's contention is that the policy, by being overly broad, places both profiteering, private interest lobbyists in the same barrel as public interest, non-profit lobbyists, preventing would be public servants from serving simply due to an arbitrary designation. Is this correct... or just slightly overblown?
The revolving door policy, as established by the President under an Executive Order, states that no one who was a registered lobbyist in the past two years may take a position at an agency if they lobbied that agency or if the agency handles issues that they were hired to lobby on. This policy comes with a possibility of a waiver, which has been applied to a few appointees.
These appointees pretty fairly split between what most would consider the more objectionable private interest lobbyists--William Lynn, Raytheon lobbyist turned deputy Secretary of Defense and Mark Patterson, Goldman Sachs lobbyist turned chief of staff to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner-- and public interest lobbyists--William Corr, anti-tobacco lobbyist turned deputy Secretary of Health and Humans Services, Jocelyn Frye, National Partnership for Women and Families gerneral counsel turned Director of Policy and Projects in the Office of the First Lady, and Cecilia Muñoz, Senior Vice President for the National Council of La Raza turned Director of Intergovernmental Affairs. While the administration is nowhere close to filling all of the key jobs, reports show that Obama is ahead of recent presidents in appointing his team. It doesn't seem that this policy is necessarily hampering his ability to fill these important jobs.
The key case, and most glaring one, that Weisbarg points to--previously reported by Laura Rozen at Foreign Policy--is that Tom Malinowski, the director of the Washington office of Humans Rights Watch, a pro-human rights organization, was forced to withdraw his name from consideration to head the State Department's Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Bureau after the administration came under attack for granting the first lobbyist waiver to Raytheon lobbyist William Lynn.
This is where the problem becomes acute and where Weiberg gets it right. As the administration set up a high legal barrier to employing lobbyists, helped by a whole bunch of anti-lobbyist rhetoric during the 2008 campaign, it became difficult for them to bend those rules by granting waivers. Had the administration simply chosen to self-select which lobbyists would be appropriate to hire, as they seem to be doing under the waiver rule, without implementing an Executive Order, they wouldn't face the political peril of constantly being called out for issuing waivers to circumvent their own rule, thus driving away public servants like Malinowski. Weisberg calls these rules "counterproductive," when the same effect could have been made through "explanation and symbolism."
Of course, the counter argument would be that anything less than a legally binding rule would not have the power to constrain the ever-spinning revolving door. We've seen numerous instances, on ethics and transparency issues, where legally binding language is required in the absence, or even existence, of good intentions. If the Obama team was sincere on keeping lobbyists out of government, did they need to issue this order? And is there a way out of lumping public interest lobbyists with those working for the private interest?
To the latter question, I'd say no. Not only is the administration not going back on their Executive Order to the type of policy Weisberg supports, but creating a distinction between for-profit and non-profit lobbyists would cause its own set of problems. There are quite a few non-profits that are fronts for, or act in support of, a particular industry. These non-profit lobbyists are absolutely different from public interest lobbyists. This could require yet another distinction, signalling that the whole process of unlumping registered lobbyists would create even further arbitrary and counterproductive decisions. Even worse, some lobbyists may simply choose to deregister to not face the future stigma. As Weisberg writes, "Allowing a few arbitrary exceptions to this kind of bad policy only makes the unfairness worse."
It turns out that Washington lobbyists are not quite the uniform bunch of scoundrels that campaign rhetoric might have us believe. Crafting a revolving door policy brings these differences out for all to see. Is the current policy acceptable or should it be altered? And what would an ideal revolving door policy look like?
David Sirota posted on OpenLeft yesterday on what he called "the reward method of corruption." Sirota writes, "As opposed to the Payoff Method whereby a campaign contribution is made and then a favor is legislated, the Reward Method gives a politician a goodie after a favor is done, sorta like a dog being given a treat for rolling over." This is one of two major issues raised by the revolving door between government and lobbying. (The other issue being the use of access built up over the years.)
While I don't think there is a direct answer, which Sirota was seeking, to how to stop the flow of lawmakers and staffers from government to the lobbying profession--short of greatly increasing their pay--there are some things to mitigate the effects.
First, let's look at the problem. This goes from the somewhat benign, lawmaker goes to work for a nonprofit cause not connected to private enterprise, to the wholly corrupt, the various staffers who did deals for Jack Abramoff and then were hired by his lobbying firm. But for the most part, these things fall in between, a staffer or lawmaker has a particular expertise and flips to make more money doing, essentially, the same thing they were doing in Congress.
Now perhaps the biggest fear is that, in preparation for a future career on K Street, a staffer or lawmaker will do favors, directly or indirectly, having been asked or on their own volition, to protect future hiring opportunities. The biggest example of this is Billy Tauzin, who was in talks to head the pharmaceutical industry's top lobbying shop, PhRMA, while he was writing the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act, the largest health care overhaul since the 1960s. Tauzin's tale included many instances of opaque situations: closed conference committees with lobbyists at the table, secret discussions for future employment, unreported meetings with lobbyists. The revelation of all of these things would have aided in providing the public with a view into Tauzin's world preemptively.
What I'm saying is that the preemptive, or real time, disclosure of a variety of items would allow the public to prevent a lawmaker from doing favors for a potential future employer. The following would be most useful:
- Real time lobbying disclosure with increased reporting requirements — We've covered this here, here and here recently. Require lobbyists to disclosure all meetings with covered officials within 24 hours. Require lobbyists to report with whom they meet and the office of the lawmaker when they are meeting with staffers. Also require specific information on positions taken on bills, appropriations, or other topics of discussion.
- Open all conference committees and require time to read conference reports — Require all conference committees to be open to the public (didn't the Democrats promise this back in 2006?) and require all conference reports to be available for 72 hours prior to consideration. (Of course, beyond this, all committees should be open and all bills should be available for 72 hours prior to consideration.)
- Increase reporting requirement for job negotiations — Currently, members of the House and some staffers must report job negotiations to the Clerk of the House, but the information is not publicly available.
As I said earlier, I don't think there is a direct way to limit government officials from leaving for a more lucrative profession outside of increasing their pay. There could be a longer "cooling off" period in the House, where it is only one year, and perhaps an extension to staff making less money than currently meets the threshold for the post-employment lobbying restriction. But that hasn't stopped lawmakers from taking positions as "consultants" and later becoming lobbyists (see: Hastert, Dennis or Daschle, Tom).
Greater transparency and disclosure would, however, be the best solution at present to provide less incentive for lawmakers and staff to act favorably for future employment. With more eyes on their actions there will be fewer Billy Tauzin's, Kevin Ring's, Michael Scanlon's, and Tony Rudy's.