Did Members of Congress Collect More $1.2 Billion in Lobbying Money From Health Care Reform?

In a column on reforming Medicare’s payment system at Kaiser Health News, Brian Klepper, who is credited as an independent health care analyst and Chief Development Officer for WeCare TLC Onsite Clinics, writes that “in 2009, records show that some members of Congress collected $1.2 billion in health care lobbying contributions—more than it had ever received from an industry on an issue—from health care interests.” The statistic might be interesting if it were true. But that’s not what the source he provides actually says.

Klepper links to an article on health industry lobbying published by the Center for Public Integrity, a investigative journalism non-profit. Here’s the passage where the $1.2 billion figure seems to come from:

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. [bold added]

So, all totaled up, businesses that lobbied on health reform one way or another spent $1.2 billion on overall lobbying activities, including other issues. That figure doesn’t tell us very much. As the authors explicitly note—and as Klepper seems to have missed—it’s not clear how much of that actually went to lobbying for or against the health care overhaul because that figure includes money spent on lobbying that wasn’t directly related to health reform. So it’s reasonable to presume that the total amount spent lobbying on the health care overhaul was actually less than $1.2 billion.

Indeed, it was probably significantly less—maybe even a relatively tiny fraction of that amount—given that the $1.2 billion figure includes groups like the Chamber of Commerce and GE, which lobbied on health reform but also spent big bucks lobbying on other issues (financial reform, etc.).

More importantly, it’s wrong to say that “some members of Congress collected” this vast amount of money. Whatever money that was spent directly on health care lobbying went to pay for things like lobbyist salaries and their associated work expenses. But money spent on lobbying isn’t the same as money spent on campaign contributions. There may be some spending that indirectly benefits a member of Congress, but as far as I can tell, it’s not money that any of them can put in their own bank accounts or the accounts of their campaigns. It’s not really “collected” by legislators.

For a better argument about the state of health care lobbying in Washington, read Timothy Carney. And remember that many of the so-called industry villains actually supported some form of the health care overhaul.

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  • rather ||

    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. [bold added]

    I will forever use this as a gold standard for a semantic game.

  • KPres||

    Like most idiots that are too stupid to grasp the concepts in question, you dismiss categorical differences as semantics.

    Come back when your IQ is in triple digits.

  • rather ||

    KPres, Like most self-proclaimed experts on intelligence your reading comprehension does not allow you to understand the subtlety of a comment.

    What you dismiss as simplicity, is a reference to the fact that a registered lobbyist (in the big leagues) works exclusively for one client, and [s]ince 1998, 43 percent of the 198 members of Congress who left government to join the private sector have registered to lobby using the 'revolving door of influence'.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...records show that some members of Congress collected $1.2 billion in health care lobbying contributions—more than it had ever received from an industry on an issue—from health care interests.

    Cut them some slack. For many, it was part of their retirement package.

  • ||

    How anybody could equate the amount spent on lobbying with money actually paid to members of Congress completely baffles me.

  • DNS||

    How anybody could equate the amount spent on lobbying with money actually paid to members of Congress completely baffles me.

    Diagnosis: Conflation

  • sevo||

    "How anybody could equate the amount spent on lobbying with money actually paid to members of Congress completely baffles me."

    On top of the MSM 'fun with numbers' BS, it doesn't pass the sniff test. Anyone can see they're for sale much cheaper than that.

  • rather ||

    I defense of lobbyist/congressmen, the latter has to share their bonuses with wives, kids, and hookers.

  • Mango Punch||

    Thank you Peter. One of the things I like most about Reason is its skepticism, even on information that supports the organization's message.

  • ChrisO||

    Given the financial stakes involved, $1.2 billion doesn't actually seem like that much. Hell, that's probably a single day's budgeting error for the DOD.

  • Ol' Liberal||

    Whew, and I was worried someone was going to capitalize "Nothing to see here," instead of mumbling it.

  • air max france||

    wow,i see

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