On May 31, I posted some thoughts on the way the Senate had tried to shut advocates of a single payer health insurance system out of the debate in Washington. (See The Health Care Insurance Debate Is Missing a Data Link.)
In that article, I asked, “Should we wonder why United Health Group hired as its top lobby the former top lobby at Fannie Mae? A guy whose resume focuses primarily on the banking industry, including a stint as counsel to the financial institutions committee, and has no demonstrated subject matter expertise in health care? Could it be because he was also chief of staff to (House Majority Leader Steny) Hoyer?”
Now comes the Washington Post to point out that the health care industry is spending millions to hire lobbiests with inside track first person knowledge of key members of Congress. This from Today’s Post:
The nation’s largest insurers, hospitals and medical groups have hired more than 350 former government staff members and retired members of Congress in hopes of influencing their old bosses and colleagues, according to an analysis of lobbying disclosures and other records. The tactic is so widespread that three of every four major health-care firms have at least one former insider on their lobbying payrolls, according to The Washington Post’s analysis.
Nearly half of the insiders previously worked for the key committees and lawmakers, including Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), debating whether to adopt a public insurance option opposed by major industry groups. At least 10 others have been members of Congress, such as former House majority leaders Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.) and Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.), both of whom represent a New Jersey pharmaceutical firm.
The hirings are part of a record-breaking influence campaign by the health-care industry, which is spending more than $1.4 million a day on lobbying in the current fight, according to disclosure records. And even in a city where lobbying is a part of life, the scale of the effort has drawn attention. For example, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) doubled its spending to nearly $7 million in the first quarter of 2009, followed by Pfizer, with more than 6 million.
Nice to think they are following our lead.