Obamacare

Health Care Industry Lobbyists Fight President Obama's Health Care Legislation All the Way to the Bank

|

Just another day on K Street in Obama's Washington.

Remember how, after taking office, Obama said he was going to stand up to Washington's special interests, that he was gearing up for a fight with the city's lobbyists? Well, D.C.'s lobbyists have taken him up on that challenge — and have been happily fighting all the way to the bank. Here's Politico on the state of lobbying in the capitol at the end of 2009:

Washington's influence industry is on track to shatter last year's record $3.3 billion spent to lobby Congress and the rest of the federal government — and that's with a down economy and about 1,500 fewer registered lobbyists in town, according to data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics. Many lobbying firms have escaped the worst of the corporate belt-tightening, thanks, in large part, to the ambitious agenda set out by President Barack Obama — who, ironically, came to Washington with a pledge to break what he considered the undue influence of special-interest lobbyists. Plenty of sectors have scaled back their K Street spending, including traditional big spenders like real estate and telecommunications. But Obama's push for legislation on health reform, financial reform and climate change has compensated for the grim economic times.

And here's USA Today on who's benefiting from all that special interest money:

As the health care bill moves toward a critical vote in the Senate, the five senators charged with overseeing the floor debate count health interests among their biggest campaign contributors, records show. The political action committees and employees of drugmakers Schering-Plough and Amgen have been the top two contributors in the past five years to Montana Sen. Max Baucus, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee and is one of three senators managing the bill for Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In all, health care interests have donated more than $2.5 million to Baucus' fundraising committees since 2005, the center's data show.

So what you're saying is… debates over massively complex legislation designed to regulate the health care industry actually made more work for lobbyists? Really? Who could have ever imagined such a thing!

This strikes me as patently obvious; regardless of what one thinks of lobbyists, what's the alternative? That trade groups should just quietly, politely accept whatever Congress decides to do to their businesses? That we should put strict prohibitions on lobbying, effectively taping shut the mouths of those Congress is proposing to regulate? Even if that were actually possible (which I doubt), how is that remotely just? If Congress decides to step in and impose massive, complex rule changes on an industry, it seems inevitable — not to mention reasonable and understandable — that the industry is going to want, and make every effort, to provide its input and perspective on how those changes will affect its livelihood.  

Perhaps liberals might say that one-time spikes like this are to be expected, and that after legislation takes effect, spending will come down. Problem is, the more you get government involved in an industry, the harder it is to ever unlink the two. Indeed, the health care bill is now explicitly being pitched as a "starter" bill, one that liberals are going to work hard to spruce up over time. So the legislative battle over health care is far from over, and, if the political debates over health care in other countries are any indication, it will never be over. As I wrote last month, if you take liberals at their word, "reform won't just mess up our health care system, it will infect our political system; the more our politics and our health care are tied together, the more our political debates will become indistinguishable from our health care debates." And you can bet next year's insurance premiums on the fact that health industry lobbyists are counting on just this fact.

Advertisement

NEXT: Worst Decade Evah? Nick Gillespie on NPR Discussing Same

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I would like to be a paid lobbyist fighting almost ALL legislation. Here in CO you can be a citizen lobbyist if you register (no need if you speak less than three times a year) but the pay for a volunteer position sucks. So I ask, who would pay for a Liberty Lobbyist? Unfortunately I have not found anyone. The LPCO does all its lobbying voluntarrily (and they are moderately successfull). If I made a lobbying company to fight AGAINST bills how much in donations could I raise?

    Show me the Money…and boobies

  2. So the first results of the health care bill have occurred: Rep. Parker Griffith (D-AL) is now Rep. Parker Griffith (R-AL).

  3. I really don’t see what is so surprising about this. This sort of favor-trading is as detrimental to liberty as any bleeding-heart liberal ever born.

    It’s difficult to fight it because for far too long Objectivists and the libertarian right have lived by the creed that “if a millionaire or a corporation does it to make money than it must be freedom”. Every once in a while there is a small amount of protest about Eminent Domain and lobbyists but the small-government right is way too used to automatically defending big business to avoid reality control whenever the big business/big government link is made.

    1. I guess this is as good a time as any to point out that corporations are a creation of government.

    2. People (even people who own/run corporations) have a right to lobby the government for policies they believe in. That being said, not evrything, or even most things people lobby for are things that are right.

  4. Another day, another campaign lie exposed. How can anyone take what Obama says seriously?

    1. Try taking him humorously. Easier on the mind.

    2. Well we took what Bush said seriously and look where it got us!! He has been in office 1 year and has already done more of what he has talked about them Bush. How do you get a government that had a surplus and run it into trillions of dollars of debt in 8 years. I’ll tell you how!! Say Suddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, that by the way were never found and start another war!!! Oh yeah that worked out really well!!! Oh I know have those poor devastated people in New Orleans tell you a story about what Bush did for them!!!

  5. It’s difficult to fight it because for far too long Objectivists and the libertarian right have lived by the creed that “if a millionaire or a corporation does it to make money than it must be freedom”.

    Because libertarians have long turned a blind eye to subsidies, favoritism, and corporatism, right?

    1. Of course we have. Nobody around here has ever made the point that corporations can’t truly screw over people with the active collusion of the state.

    2. Yeah, yeah but come on. The objections are tepid at best. No one’s demanding a revolution like when the liberals score a big one.

  6. regardless of what one thinks of lobbyists, what’s the alternative?

    Simple. The government should do all this stuff in secret, and then just announce the fait accompli.

    I can’t see any problems with that.

  7. Rep. Parker Griffith (D-AL) is now Rep. Parker Griffith (R-AL).

    The bill covers sex changes?

  8. It’s difficult to fight it because for far too long Objectivists and the libertarian right have lived by the creed that “if a millionaire or a corporation does it to make money than it must be freedom”

    Here’s a big fucking clue for you, Susie: we are not Republicans.

    1. Where did I say you were?

  9. If Congress decides to step in and impose massive, complex rule changes on an industry, it seems inevitable ? not to mention reasonable and understandable ? that the industry is going to want, and make every effort, to provide its input and perspective on how those changes will affect its livelihood.

    Unfortunately, instead of of “blind obstructionism” which would be perfectly okay with me, we get corporatist fine-tuning designed to favor some companies at the expense of others.

  10. Maybe I should ahve switched jobs and become a lobbyist in this Obama era – I could have it made for life.

  11. If the Obama administration is an example of standing up to special interests, I’d hate to see what a business friendly President would look like.

  12. Some guy on the local NPR station this morning… health policy expert from the U of W was weakly “defending” the healthcare bill and the back-room payoffs by saying “That’s just how business is done in Washington”.

    That one goes into the toolbelt for future use.

  13. WE MUST REPEAL THE 16TH AND 17TH AMENDMENTS!

  14. I’m thinking the alt text should have been “Singing through the pain, just singing through the pain.”

  15. It never ceases to fascinate me how the pro-lobby people argue that their mouths should not be taped shut. Nobody’s saying “shut your mouth.” Shut your wallet and stop what is tantamount to bribery. Or, stop calling it lobbying and just call it bribery. This kind of thing is illegal in many other countries. It’s a shame our politicians do not have the stomach to ban it here. Gee, I wonder why.

    And to those who argue that paying politicians is “freedom of speech,” well, I’d like to have the same kind of “freedom of speech” when a cop gives me a traffic ticket. Just to “tell” him I don’t “support” his point of view.

  16. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The problem with influence-peddling is not the peddling; it’s the INFLUENCE.

  17. You know I am so tired of everyone kicking OUR PRESIDENT!!! The Health care mess has been here long before he every stepped into office. Why are we not calling our senators and congress people and telling them what we want. Why don’t the people stand up and be about the people and quite all the back and forth between the parties!! This is an AMERICA ISSUE not a democratic or republican or liberal or whatever party you claim. Make your people do what you put them in place for!!!

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.