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Money, Politics and Health
July 31, 2009

In his conversation with Bill Moyers, former CIGNA executive Wendell Potter spoke of the hold profits have on health care policy. "It does offend me that the vested special interests, who are so profitable and so powerful, are able to influence public policy in the way that they have, and the way that they've done over the years. And the insurance industry has been one of the most successful, in beating back any kinds of legislation that would hinder or affect the profitability of the companies."

On July 6, 2009 the WASHINGTON POST reported on two aspects of this easy flow between government and industry, money and politics. "Familiar Players in Health Bill Lobbying Firms Are Enlisting Ex-Lawmakers, Aides," documents the revolving door: "The nation's largest insurers, hospitals and medical groups have hired more than 350 former government staff members and retired members of Congress in hopes of influencing their old bosses and colleagues, according to an analysis of lobbying disclosures and other records."

In addition, the POST story calculated the amount that the health industry is spending to lobby against elements of proposed health care reform to the tune of $1.4 million a day. Indeed, "Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) doubled its spending to nearly $7 million in the first quarter of 2009, followed by Pfizer, with more than $6 million."

The POST relied on federal records and watchdogs groups who crunch the numbers on money and politics in Washington. Learn more and begin your own investigation below.

The Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group, maintains a number of comprehensive resources on money and politics on their Web site, Their health care coverage provides several ways to investigate ties between politicians and industry. tracks money and politics in a different manner. combines three data sets: bill texts and legislative voting records, supporting and opposing interests for each bill and campaign contribution data. The numbers are then crunched to indicate contributions given by interests supporting and opposing each bill; average donations given to legislators voting Yes and No on each bill; and a timeline of contributions and votes for each bill, graphically identifying when legislators received large donations before or after their vote.'s information is broken down by industry and allows users to track individual pieces of legislation or by congressional member.

Profits and Executive Salaries

In his conversation with Bill Moyers, Wendell Potter said enhancing shareholder value is job one for health insurance companies: "The business that they're in is health care, certainly, but their primary motivation is to reward their shareholders." Although they aren't at the very top of FORTUNE's list of the top 500 companies this year, sectors of the heath industry garnered another large rise in profits last year, as the chart at right shows. You can chart the industry's profits over time and the salaries of top executives at FORTUNES's Web site.

The Revolving Door

The government recently enacted some restrictions on the revolving door between Capitol Hill and K Street. However, many watchdogs feel they are insufficient. maintains a database of politicians and lobbyists who make the round-trip journey. Public Citizen has an extensive Web site,, to track the efficacy of the new lobbying rules and keep up the pressure for congressional ethics reform.

Published July 31, 2009.

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Washington's abuzz about health care, but why isn't a single-payer plan an option on the table? Public Citizen's Dr. Sidney Wolfe and Physicians for a National Health Program's Dr. David Himmelstein on the political and logistical feasibility of health care reform. (May 22, 2009)

Medical practitionersSenator Dick Durbin
As the banking stress test results come in, the JOURNAL takes a closer look at money's stranglehold on politics. Bill Moyers speaks with Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) on campaign finance reform, big lobbying, and making Washington work for the people rather than special interests. (May 8, 2009)

Medical practitionersRobert Kaiser
Robert G. Kaiser has been following Beltway politics for THE WASHINGTON POST for nearly 50 years. This week on the Journal, Bill Moyers talks with Kaiser about his new book, SO DAMN MUCH MONEY: THE TRIUMPH OF LOBBYING AND THE CORROSION OF AMERICAN GOVERNMENT. (February 20, 2009)

Medical practitionersCan Washington Change?
Can the stranglehold of money on politics be broken? Bill Moyers sits down with Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, and Bob Edgar, president and CEO of Common Cause, to discuss how Beltway business as usual may stand in the way of real change in Washington. (October 31, 2008)

Melody Petersen, photo by Robin Holland Melody Petersen
Melody Petersen talks with Bill Moyers about her new book OUR DAILY MEDS, and how drug companies market medication. (May 16, 2008)
References and Reading:
Health Industry Lobbying
Kaiser Family Foundation
The Kaiser Family Foundation is a non-profit, private operating foundation focusing on the major health care issues facing the U.S., as well as the U.S. role in global health policy. Their Web site contains a wealth of information and data about health care in the U.S. for consumers and policy makers. Health
Explore the connection between money and politics in the health care debate. The MAPlight database maps the connection between campaign donations and legislative votes with three data sets: Bill texts and legislative records; supporting and opposing interests in each bill; and campaign contribution data.

"Familiar Players in Health Bill Lobbying Firms Are Enlisting Ex-Lawmakers, Aides,"
Dan Eggen and Kimberly Kindy, THE WASHINGTON POST, July 6, 2009. This widely cited article examines the revolving door between Congress and the lobbyists trying to influence the health care debate.

"Where’d the Money Go? Times story overlooks insurer’s contributions,"
by Greg Marx, COLUMBIA JOURNALISM REVIEW, July 06, 2009.

"Pushing Prescriptions"
The Center for Public Integrity's investigation of the pharmaceutical industry’s lobbying might and gifts of free travel for members of Congress — and its resulting political influence and impact on the American public. Tracking Your Representatives' Health Care Cash
Follow campaign contributions by industry on the searchable database at

"Diagnosis Reform" by Lindsay Renick Mayer & Michael Beckel & Aaron Kiersh, CAPITAL EYE BLOG, June 17, 2009.

"Unions Lobby to Thwart Health Care Deal Breaker,"
By Lindsay Renick Mayer, CAPITAL EYE BLOG, July 8, 2009.

Public Citizen Health Research Group
"Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts"

General Lobbying Resources
Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest
Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest (CLPI) promotes, supports and protects 501(c)(3) nonprofit advocacy and lobbying in order to strengthen participation in our democratic society and advance charitable missions. The Web site contains information on effective lobbying procedures.

Center for Public Integrity
The Center for Public Integrity is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, tax-exempt organization that conducts investigative research and reporting on public policy issues in the United States and around the world. They post commentaries, list news stories of interest, and distribute the "Public i" newsletter. The Center maintains extensive online research projects including LobbyWatch, and PowerTrips, an investigation into Congressional travel

The Center for Responsive Politics
The Center for Responsive Politics is a non-partisan, non-profit research group based in Washington, D.C. that tracks money in politics, and its effect on elections and public policy. The site contains comprehensive databases on 527s, PACS and breakdown of dollars by representative, major donors, donors by industry, and many others.

Federal Election Commission
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is an agency created to administer and enforce the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1975 (FECA), the statute that regulates the financing of federal elections in the United States. It has jurisdiction over all subsequent campaign finance regulation. The Web site contains a searchable database of all campaign finance filings and a guide to the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2004.

Public Citizen
Public Citizen is a national non-profit public interest organization "protecting health, safety, and democracy." Their Lobbyinginfo Web site features a report on Congressmen who retired to K Street (PDF) and offers a searchable database of lobbyists and their employments histories.
Also This Week:
With almost 20 years inside the health insurance industry, Wendell Potter saw for-profit insurers hijack our health care system and put profits before patients. Now, he speaks with Bill Moyers about how those companies are standing in the way of health care reform.


Trace campaign contributions, ad spending and the revolving door between industry and government.

Public option, single payer, free market — what are the options now under discussion?

Learn more about Remote Area Medical, the non-profit group that mounts "medical expeditions" in the U.S. and abroad.

Complete coverage of health care on BILL MOYERS JOURNAL.
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