$30M in Industry Money Clouding Debate, Says Consumer Watchdog
Washington, D.C. – The health care industry and its lobbyists have hosted at least 130 fundraisers this year for members of Congress who sit on the five key committees responsible for crafting a health care overhaul, according to an analysis released today by the nonpartisan Consumer Watchdog. Health industry PACs and individuals donated $30.7 million to members of those committees over the same period of time.
Consumer Watchdog called on members of Congress to cancel upcoming fundraisers sponsored by the health care industry, and return any campaign contributions received from the industry, until health reform legislation is complete. At least two members of the House Energy and Commerce committee – Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA) – have fundraisers hosted by health industry lobbyists scheduled for Wednesday. Rep. Blunt scheduled nine industry-hosted fundraisers, more than any other committee member.
“Who can tell which hard decisions on health reform are being made over $1,000 high-balls shared by lobbyists and politicians while the public’s locked out of the room?” said Carmen Balber, Washington Director for Consumer Watchdog. “The public can’t be confident in health reform if Congress insists on accepting industry money while legislating.”
The fundraisers included donations ranging from a low $500 to attend a “Healthcare Industry Reception” for Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR) in July, a $1,500 Mexican dinner at La Loma with Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), to a $5,000 “PAC Gold Host” contribution for a breakfast event benefiting Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK).
Download data analysis of fundraisers, campaign contributions and health care lobbyists here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/healthcarefundraisers.xls
Health care legislation proposed by Sen. Max Baucus and being considered in the Senate Finance committee today would require all Americans to have health insurance, but does not limit what insurance companies can charge and does not provide a Medicare-style public alternative to private insurance. Middle-class families could be required to spend nearly 20% of their annual income on health care under the Baucus plan. A mandate for individuals to purchase private health insurance with no affordable coverage alternative is exactly what the health care lobby hoped for from health reform, said Consumer Watchdog.
The fundraisers hosted by health industry lobbyists this year include multiple receptions at: the offices of Capitol Tax Partners, whose lobbyists represent Amgen, UnitedHealth and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association; the townhouse of the Patton Boggs lobbying giant, where providers (American College of Gastroenterology), hospitals (Coalition of Full Service Hospitals), drug makers (Bristol-Myers Squibb), and health plans (Christus Health) are all represented; and, the Williams and Jensen townhouse, where the pharmaceutical clients include Abbot Labs, Amgen, AstraZeneca, Merck, Novartis, Pfizer, Roche, Takeda and Wyeth. Breakfast, dinner and cocktails were offered just steps from the Capitol at venues including Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar, French Bistro Bis and the members-only Capitol Hill Club.
Members of the so-called “Gang of Six” Senators, the primary negotiators of the proposal under consideration in the Senate Finance committee today, raised $5.85 million from the health industry since 2005:
Download the data: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/healthcarefundraisers.xls
Fundraiser information was obtained from the Sunlight Foundation and posted online at http://www.politicalpartytime.org. The list does not include every fundraiser hosted by the health care industry because the group publishes only those invitations it is able to obtain from insider sources. The Sunlight Foundation does not confirm scheduled fundraisers have occurred. Campaign contribution and lobbyist client information was obtained from the Center for Responsive Politics at http://www.opensecrets.org. “Health care industry” contributors include: hospitals and nursing homes, pharmaceutical companies, medical device manufacturers, health professionals, health insurers and HMOs.
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Consumer Watchdog is a nonprofit, nonpartisan consumer advocacy organization with offices in Washington, D.C. and Santa Monica, CA. Find us online at http://www.consumerwatchdog.org