The Max Baucus Health Care Lobbyist Complex


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.

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  • It’s good to know about this. I think this is the proof there are a lot of battle of needs for their own benefit in our current government.

  • He should have been gone long ago he has become anuisance to himself and society

  • Ron Knapp

    He is an embarrassment to the state and country! We see where he was drunk addressing Congress. Tries to get his girlfriend a job using his influence and friends.
    I say invite him to speak, address Congress after he drinks lunch! Instead the Democrats have him in hidding until this HealthCare Bill is decided.

    Ron Knapp

  • National_Illness

    “Their profits plus administrative costs are 3-4 times the admin costs of Medicare;”

    Actually it’s much, much worse.

    We have a reimbursement platform that pays providers for 3-4% over the cost of care, called Medicare.

    Private insurers slather on overhead of 30% on average, with 22% best case (Kaiser) and 50% (some Aetna lines with which I’m familiar).

    Turn the telescope the opposite direction. With $1.2-1.4 trillion in private health insurance premiums, that works out to $300-450 billion year paid for absolutely no medical care. That would pay for excellent health care for 90 million Americans – more than enough to cover all Americans as well as improve the payments to doctors and improve the coverage for those currently insured.

  • Rose Pluriel

    Dr Sick is right, and it is worse than that. The Baucus Bill mandates public funding of compulsory insurance (for those below a certain level of income), without providing a genuine alternative to private health insurance. Wendell Potter (ex-CIGNA exec) explains very clearly (in the press, in congressional hearings) how the private health insurance industry works. There’s no way to stop companies playing the Wall St game (which might be appropriate for some industries), but there is a way to stop insurance companies playing that game at the expense of our health and that is to have a publicly run option, that does not funnel our tax dollars into companies whose only interest is their share prices (which depend on their “loss ratios”, or how little they can get away with paying for actual medical care). Their profits plus administrative costs are 3-4 times the admin costs of Medicare; not saying an entitlement programm is necessarily right for all, just that an institution that is not driven by its share price should be available to provide insurance when a significant part of that insurance is being paid for from the public purse.

    Under Baucus plan costs will continue to spiral, tax payers will fund much of the spiraling, there will be no way to control deficit consequences of this, and the whole system will end up in even worse shape than it is in now…which is saying something. There is ALWAYS rationing of medical care. We need to ration it a lot more rationally than we do now, which can only be done if costs are managed.

    The fact that Baucus supports a bill that by definition channels public funds to companies that give him lots of money is not, prima facie, evidence of corruption, but it is certainly evidence of a state-of-mind that seems highly inappropriate for a person who has a lot of power over what will happen to our health insurance system. He is in a lucky electoral position – a Democrat from a Republican state who gets 60% of the vote in elections. He is not likely to be punished if his plan gets through, no matter how damaging it is. The whole thing stinks.

  • Buster Bunns

    Before anyone gets their shorts in a twist, take look at what opensecret has listed for Harry Reid, Charles Schumer and Chris Dodds as having received. There are few if any cleanskins in Congress on both sides of the aisle, hence the overall pandering to special interests.

  • Anders Pedersen

    Thanks for this valuable study.

    I am curious about the role of the Podesta Group (, which apparently holds close ties to centrist democrats while still receiving huge amounts from big pharma. What is their position on the health care and more in particulat the public option? Which senators and congress members do they have access to?
    (Full disclosure: I am writing a piece on the lobbying of Novo Nordisk Pharmaceuticals for Danish newspaper). Thanks again for posting this.

    Anders Pedersen

  • Grateful

    Thank you! This is exactly the type of information that needs to get to the soon to be disillusioned populace that voted for change. Why is the status quo so absurdly well protected in the U.S.? This graphic is a big part of the answer. The dramatic shift in lobbying influence over the last 30-years has substantially hindered the potential for any meaningful change in this nation.

    The two issues at the nexus of all of the needed legislation in this nation are campaign finance reform and media consolidation. The status quo buys the politicians and owns the media sources to keep the ignorant public misinformed.

  • Dr.Sick

    Baucus plan amounts to give away to insurance industry. Here’s why:

    The issue of preexisting conditions is only addressed by saying that the “health co-ops” can’t exclude anyone. So the end result will be that the co-ops go bust as the insurance companies leverage out their most sick cases and these folks get picked up by the “co-op”. A year later the Republican anaylysis is that the “see, the co-ops” are bankrupt but look how efficient the private sector is!”

    People just don’t realize that the insurance industry is all about removing risk and the have armies of folks working this everysecond of the day. Sick patients are the worst risk around.

  • Omi Cantor

    I have emailed Senator Baucus continuously regarding his ties to the healthcare industry. In the state of Montana there are 16% of the citizens who have no health insurance. Do you think this has made an impact on Senator Baucus? I don’t think so!!

    And who received his infamous proposal first -why K street and probably Jeff Forbes. What a surprise!!

  • Chloe

    This is terrific! The only problem is that we don’t have similar information on all the players. More importantly, it says much that Death Panels get more attention than this. I think there should be stats on who’s funding them appearing with every politician and pundit like baseball players at bat.

  • Jay

    Thank you for this information.

    I believe those with connections like this will still be effective in doing the right thing, IF they know they are being watched closely.

    This type of work helps tremendously in that regard — knowing who to watch on what legislation.

  • Sharon Dillon

    Let us not forget Nancy Pelosi’s investments in Green Energy. Are you not concerned about the power base that this administration is building with czars who are bypassing any Congressional oversight? I have read the available healthcare bills.Do you really want one person to decide who,how,where and when you get medical care? I have lived in two countries with socialized medicine.You have no choices. When you do manage to get a doctor, he determines whether you see a specialist. No one can go to an emergency room on their own. You have to have permission from your doctor. That wait can be the difference between life and death. Even the French admit that their tax rate is at 50% and the unemployment rate remains steady at between 10% to 12%.
    People, wake up, over 35,000 lobbyists run all of Congress and always have. We need to elect people who are not lawyers,and establish term limits.


    Why does a Senator from the sparsely populated state of Montana (read: very inexpensive market to run for office) require millions and millions of dollars from the immoral healthcare industry to retain office in a safe seat such as his? This guy has NO SHAME! He goes on TV with that sh*t-eating grin and says with a straight face that he’s trying to be bipartisan. My AS*! He’s as corrupt as they come and he’s SHAMELESS!

  • In response to ‘Give-me-a-break’: Only far right-wing Republicans are comfortable with people who violate Senate Ethics Rules, requiring at a minimum recusal in matters concerning major contributors.
    Anyone who solicits and accepts $5.5 million from the Health Care Industry should not decide over matters of health care, especially where the Health Care Industry wants to keep over 40 million citizen uninsured, 40 million that will use the Emergency Room for which you and I have to pay billion ever year.

  • Joseph

    Thank you for this information. The facts speak for themselves–and ought to be recognized as the source of any “singling out” that is going on here. The best way to stop the “singling out” is to change the facts, which is a choice in the hands of Sen. Baucus and the rest of the Congress.

  • Jack V

    Here is Obama style transparency

    “……Having promised transparency, the administration should be willing to disclose who it is consulting in shaping healthcare policy, said an attorney for the citizens’ group. In its letter requesting the records, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics asked about visits from Billy Tauzin, president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America; Karen Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans; William Weldon, chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson; and J. James Rohack, president of the American Medical Assn., among others.

    “It’s extremely disappointing,” said Anne Weismann, the group’s chief counsel. Obama is relying on a legal argument that “continues one of the bad, anti-transparency, pro-secrecy approaches that the Bush administration had taken. And it seems completely at odds with the president’s commitment . . . to bring a new level of transparency to his government.” …..”

  • Jack V

    Your hatchet job on Senator Baucus shows how the left wing of the Democrat party turns on anyone who dares to question their wishes.

    The article has no content showing Senator Baucus has engaged in influence peddling

    Your protestations of merely revealing ‘influence peddling’ is a sad joke. You are smearing the Senator.

    You are avoiding the ‘influence peddling’ that is going on inside the Obama administration in support of the secret plan. They have no specific bill or plan we can even see.

    The only transparency from the Obama administration is their invisible bill.

  • Great visualization –

    There certainly is a lot of this ‘self-interest’ going on in government at all levels.

    Left/right wing? Who cares? the data shapes this story.

    It’d be interesting to see and explore a huge dataset, observing the connections: legitimate, self-interested, or otherwise.

    The obstacles to participate and understand government are reduced because this data is made ‘accessible’.
    How long until the general public realizes the ability to exert corrective pressure with these ‘newly found’ measuring tools? Thanks Sunlight!

  • Give me a Break

    It is becoming clearer and clearer that the Sunlight Foundation is nothing more than a left-wing shill.

    It’s unbelievable that Max Baucus is singled out on this bill. The only reason is because he’s against the healthcare proposal. Why not look at all of the non-centrist left’s attachment to this bill?

    You continue to lose credibility by the day.

    • Maybe you could look at the explanation in the post. Or, I don’t know, look at the other posts that examine both committee Democrats and Republicans ties to lobbyists. Why the Senate Finance Committee? Why Max Baucus? Because pretty much every independent observer agrees that the Finance Committee will play the central role in health care reform. The committee has far more influence over the bill’s substance than any other committee. That’s why Baucus is singled out; that’s why we picked this particular committee. I would love to look at HELP. I’m sure that Chris Dodd has a ton of connections to health care lobbyists, also. We take no position on the bill, but that doesn’t preclude us from examining the influence peddling going on around it nor does it stop us from making procedural complaints (as we have about the availability of bill text). If you want to think that we’re some left-wing shills, you’re free to that opinion. Everyone has the right to be wrong here in America.

  • Dustee

    I’m sure President Obama know that the majority of our congress people, Dems and Repubs are riddled with corruption.

    But they are the same people he’s got to work with. geez!

  • Thank you for bringing this to everyone’s attention. There is to much of this activity going on in Washington. It is counter productive to having a positive outcome and Mr Baucus should step down. President Obama stated that not fixing our health care system will bring this country to bankruptcy. I have to wonder how fast getting it wrong will get us there.

  • If he is so far in their pocket he should step down as chairman, how can he be for
    the people when he is working for them. All the Democrats who are not for the people. stop being wimps.