"Lobbyists Swarm Capitol To Influence Health Reform
"Tally of 4,525 Means Eight Lobbyists for Each Member of Congress
"By Joe Eaton and M.B. Pell | February 23, 2010
"When President Barack Obama meets with Congressional leadership on Thursday to jump start stalled health reform efforts, industry lobbyists will not be in the room. But if the successful 2009 lobbying effort to influence health reform legislation is any indication, special interests will be well represented.
"A Center for Public Integrity analysis of Senate lobbying disclosure forms shows that more than 1,750 companies and organizations hired about 4,525 lobbyists — eight for each member of Congress — to influence health reform bills in 2009.
"The list of companies and organizations that worked to put their imprint on legislation is diverse, ranging from health care interests and advocacy groups to giant corporations, small businesses, American Indian tribes, religious groups, and universities.
"Among industries, 207 hospitals lined up to lobby, followed by 105 insurance companies and 85 manufacturing companies. Trade, advocacy, and professional organizations trumped them all with 745 registered groups that lobbied on health reform bills, illustrating the common Washington strategy of special interests banding together to pool money and increase their influence.
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"Among the most visible organizations in the halls of Congress, AARP deployed 56 in-house lobbyists and two from outside firms to work the issue on behalf of its members. The pro-business U.S. Chamber of Commerce deployed 47 lobbyists, all but eight from outside firms. The corporate titans who direct the Business Roundtable deployed 40, five from outside firms, and the American Medical Association had 33, 11 from outside firms. The data also revealed that the roster of groups trying to mold legislation went far beyond corporate and health care interests to include such unlikely entities as Americans for the Arts, and the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions.
"Despite the recession, 2009 was a boom year for influence peddling overall with business and advocacy groups shelling out $3.47 billion for lobbyists to represent them on all kinds of issues, according to the nonprofit group Center for Responsive Politics.
"Much of that money went to fight the health reform battle, according to Center for Public Integrity data. Businesses and organizations that lobbied on health reform spent more than $1.2 billion on their overall lobby efforts. The exact amount they spent on health reform is difficult to quantify because most health care lobbyists also worked on other issues, and lobby disclosure rules do not require businesses to report how much they paid on each issue.
"From an industry perspective, it was money well spent. A close look at the health reform bills that passed the House and Senate show lobbyists were apparently effective at blocking provisions like a robust government-run insurance program, and blunting the effect of cost-cutting measures on health care companies.
"An Effective Group
"The lobbying details come as President Obama prepares to meet with Republicans on health reform. Obama’s own blueprint, released on Monday, combines elements of both the House and Senate bills. To pass, any bill would need to attract Republican support or use budget reconciliation rules to avoid filibuster in the Senate.
"Health Lobbyists Doubled by End of 2009
"The number of lobbyists working Congress on health reform more than doubled throughout 2009 from more than 1,400 in the first three months of the year to nearly 3,700 in the final quarter, when attention focused on the Senate bill.
“They cut it. They chopped it. They reconstructed it,” Julian Zelizer, a Princeton University professor of public affairs, said about health reform lobbying. “They didn’t bury it. I don’t think they wanted to.”
"The lack of serious cost controls in House and Senate bills are a direct result of health industry lobbying efforts, Zelizer said.
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Aaron Mehta, Dan Ettinger, Naseem Miller, and Caitlin Ginley contributed to this report."
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