Hidden ‘Bundles’ of Lobbyist Giving Show Full Court Press by Health Care Donors


Sunlight and the Center for Responsive Politics have teamed up on a collaborative investigative project that shows never-before-seen “contribution clusters” from outside lobbyists and their health care industry clients to key members of Congress.

Baucus Wheel of Fortune (Health Care)

We found that Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee and author of the main health care reform bill now being debated in the Senate, was one of the biggest beneficiaries of this one-two punch from lobbyists and the interests they represent. Between January 2007 and July 2009 (the period we studied), Baucus collected contributions from 37 outside lobbyists representing PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry’s chief trade association, and from 36 lobbyists who listed drug maker Amgen Inc. among their clients.

In all, 11 major health and insurance firms had their contributions to Baucus boosted through extra donations from 10 or more of their outside lobbyists. (See our visualization and the full list from CRP.)

Nor was Baucus alone—other members also received contributions from the employees, their family members and political action committees of health care firms and from the outside lobbyists that represented them. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., collected lobbyist “bundles” from 14 major health care organizations. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., actually led the list, with 22 organizations—though much of that money was directed at his presidential campaign last year. (see the full list.)

PhRMA and Amgen were the organizations with the most outside lobbyists chipping in with extra contributions. Some 32 members of Congress got money from 10 or more PhRMA lobbyists over the last two-and-a-half years. Amgen’s lobbyists did the same for 24 members.

There is no indication that the extra giving by lobbyists was part of a planned effort by the health care firms to solidify their support among key members of Congress. But whether coordinated or not, the newly-found clusters of lobbyist giving clearly illustrate the intensity of the full-court press that the industry is currently waging on Capitol Hill.

The research into the lobbyist-and-client giving was conducted by combining campaign contribution records with reports filed by lobbyists that identified their clients (read more on how we did it; full methodology here). The Center for Responsive Politics has been collecting that data for years, but this was the first time the two databases were combined to identify all cases where outside lobbyists contributed to the same members of Congress as their clients.

Overall, the research found that about 90 percent of the lobbyist donations were given by the lobbyists themselves. Another 10 percent came from members of their immediate families, mainly spouses. Interestingly, about one-third of the contributions were given not to the members’ campaign committees, but to their leadership PACs—separate funds that members control—but that get far less media scrutiny than their reelection campaigns. The leadership PACs also have higher contribution limits, enabling lobbyists to give well beyond the nominal $2,400 limit that applies to campaign committees.

To see Sunlight’s previous visualizations of health care lobbying–which also relied on data from the Center for Responsive Politics–click here.

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  • Thank you so much for the great work.

    Hopefully the American people will begin to realize who has their best interests at heart.

  • Thank you very much for the work. I’ve been sending the link everywhere.

  • amethystlady2

    Max Baucus has actually received well over $3 million from the insurance industry – there is something VERY wrong with this picture…and with Max Baucus, and Charles Grassley…something very very wrong!

  • Peggy Karp

    Dear Sunlight Foundation–great work!

    Do you have the same info you provide on Baucus for the other 4 Dems on the Senate Finance Committee who voted against the Rockefeller Amendment?

  • Ron

    Fascinating stuff — but hardly surprising. I am reporting on the influence of lobbying (among other things) on my blog, in preparation for publication of a book that links short-term selfish interests to many of the problems this country currently faces. http://Musings-from-Claremnt.blogspot.com. I welcome reader comments.

  • Mark701

    Nice work although it’s unlikely this information will have an effect. When things that are immoral become legal as the first poster noted, it’s not a big step to anarchy and eventually revolution.

  • Jake Brewer
  • Jake Brewer

    Great feedback, DD! Thank you very much. We did another post later in the day that also includes an animation that breaks it down a little more for you.

    In total: $453,000 (and change) – which is roughly 20% of Baucus’ cash on hand.

    Thanks again for your feedback… we’ll be keeping it in mind as we develop future pieces around this data.

  • dd

    Great work, Sunlight Foundation–but why in the world don’t you put the numbers in the article????

    If you’re trying to generate interest/outrage/concern, tell us how much money Baucus and Co. received.

    Don’t make us dig through a graphic and add the numbers ourselves. Sorry, but this is just plan bad writing.

    I was about to post to my FaceBook page and blog, but why would I? To tell the world that Baucus received donations from 37 outside lobbyists and 36 Amgen lobbyists…? You need a dollar figure in that first paragraph, otherwise…who cares?

    You’re doing important work. Make sure you deliver the information properly!

    So, I’m dying to know. How money has Baucus actually gotten from the health care biz?

  • Eddie Alexander

    I understand very well, that this practice is legal but Hitler’s actions was also Legal and the American system of Slavery was also Legal and we’re talking about the very people that determine the Legality of every aspect of our lives. This is no different from assigning the FOX to guard the Hen house.

    If you care about this grave injistice, for yourself, your Children and their Children in generations to come, please sign on to http://www.change.org and sign my petition on UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE,Titled: