You get what you pay for

A Plague of Lobbyists


When one-sixth of the American economy is up for grabs, don't be surprised if corporations and professional organizations scramble to hire as many lobbyists as they can afford. As Congress debated health care reform, the industry's representatives invaded Capitol Hill. Some got into the game to protect their interests against redistribution; others were digging for special subsidies, tax breaks, and regulations at the expense of their competitors.

The nonprofit Center for Public Integrity reported in March that an "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." Lobbyists for unions opposed taxes on gold-plated health insurance plans; lobbyists for doctors opposed cuts in Medicare reimbursements; a lobbyist for Dunkin Donuts opposed a soda tax to pay for health care reform; and a Cigar Association lobbyist fought a tobacco tax.

The Center for Public Integrity noted that "2009 was a boom year for influence peddling overall with business and advocacy groups shelling out $3.47 billion for lobbyists." Although it is hard to quantify the exact amount spent on trying to influence health care legislation, the groups lobbying the issue spent about $1.2 billion.