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Bloomberg: Romney-Gingrich Rival Campaigns Woo Lobbyists to Help Pay Bills

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

The lobbyist-bundlers represent clients big and small, from Indian tribes to General Electric Co. and drugmaker Pfizer Inc. The health-care and financial industries are represented by the biggest proportion of the group, followed by energy, technology and telecommunications, according to records filed with Congress.

The Republican presidential candidates benefiting from their fundraising have all pledged to repeal new regulations to rein in the financial industry and to do away with the health- care law that expanded insurance coverage.

Bloomberg

Republican presidential front-runners courting an anti-Washington mood among their primary voters are counting on Washington lobbyists to pay their bills.

Tonight, the hosts at a $1,000-a-head event for Newt Gingrich, being held two blocks from the White House, include former Louisiana Representative Robert Livingston, Kenneth Kies, a leading tax lobbyist, and Clint Robinson, Research In Motion (RIMM)’s vice president of government relations, according to a copy of the invitation.

The three are among more than 60 lobbyists raising money for Gingrich and Republican rivals Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Together, they represent almost 500 companies, associations and interest groups that will be affected by the next president’s policies; Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) alone has six of its outside lobbyists raising money for Republican candidates.

“The clients are the ones who are winning here,” said Craig Holman, who presses for stricter campaign finance laws at Public Citizen, an advocacy group based in Washington.

Elite Class

Lobbyist fundraisers are an elite class of donors because they use their influence with friends and clients to drive donations to a candidate. Overall, registered lobbyists and others working for policy groups or law firms that lobby donated more than $500,000 through Sept. 30 to candidates running for president, with Romney taking in $206,550, more than anyone else, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group.

While President Barack Obama’s campaign doesn’t accept contributions from registered lobbyists, he has taken in $84,459 from non-registered employees at firms that lobby.

Former House Speaker Gingrich is in need of fundraising help after vaulting to the lead in national polls. At the end of the third quarter, he had raised $2.9 million, compared with $17.2 million for Texas Governor Perry and $32.6 million for former Massachusetts Governor Romney. Gingrich also had $1.2 million in debt.

Occidental Grill

The event at the Occidental Grill & Seafood restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue tonight had 16 hosts as of last week. Livingston, who at one point in 1998 was slated to succeed Gingrich as House speaker, counts Verizon among the clients who have paid his firm $6.5 million so far this year.

Livingston said his motivation to help Gingrich raise money isn’t about business. “I have eight grandkids and I want them to grow up in a decent, healthy, wonderful country,” he said.

Lobbyists Sam Geduldig and Drew Maloney are among the more than 75 hosts who agreed to raise at least $1,000 for Romney as part of a Dec. 14 “young professionals” event featuring Romney’s son, Tagg. Individual tickets are going for $100.

And Dirk Van Dongen and Jade West of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, which has spent $319,646 to lobby this year, have helped Perry ease into Washington, with a meet-and-greet in October and a Sept. 27 $1,000-a-head kickoff fundraiser for which hosts raised at least $10,000.

“You use your personal time to do it,” Van Dongen, president of the association, said in an interview. “You tend to support a candidate because you have a relationship to begin with or there’s something about the candidate from a policy or ideological point of view with which you more highly identify.”

Bundler Disclosure

When lobbyists bundle donations through events or phone solicitations that add up to more than $16,000, campaigns are required to disclose their names and amounts raised, though only on a quarterly basis. As of Sept. 30, Romney listed eight lobbyists — including Maloney — who had raised almost $1 million combined. Perry listed one, Dan Brouillette, who had brought in $77,000. Gingrich had none.

Romney acted early to line up top Washington fundraisers. Spencer Zwick, Romney’s national fundraising chairman, invited lobbyist Rick Hohlt to meet him for drinks in March 2010 at the Willard Hotel.

“He just wanted to tell me about the campaign and, ‘Would I be interested in helping?’” Hohlt, who runs his own firm, said in an interview. “It’s one thing if the guy just walks onto the field. It’s another thing saying, ‘Why don’t you play with us and here’s why.’”

GE to Pfizer (PFE)

The lobbyist-bundlers represent clients big and small, from Indian tribes to General Electric Co. and drugmaker Pfizer Inc. The health-care and financial industries are represented by the biggest proportion of the group, followed by energy, technology and telecommunications, according to records filed with Congress.

The Republican presidential candidates benefiting from their fundraising have all pledged to repeal new regulations to rein in the financial industry and to do away with the health- care law that expanded insurance coverage.

Verizon, which has spent $12.3 million through Sept. 30 on lobbying, pushed to weaken Internet rules proposed by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski.

Stakes are High

“There’s a lot at stake in the White House race this year in a way that is different from what was at stake in the past,” said Anthony Corrado, a campaign finance expert at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. “That’s stimulating much more fundraising activity out of interests who are concerned about the direction of government policy.”

Spokesmen for Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE (GE) and New York- based Verizon and Pfizer all said that the partisan political activity of their outside lobbyists had nothing to do with them.

“We don’t know who they are, we don’t know what they’re doing and it’s not an issue we pay attention to,” said Edward McFadden, a Verizon spokesman.

Even so, such activity helps a lobbyist’s client roster, said Rogan Kersh, a public policy professor at New York University.

“Bundling checks or other high-profile fundraising can earn invitations to White House parties, occasional meet-and greets with presidents or top staffers,” Kersh said. “That appearance of proximity can carry great weight.”

NPR: Gingrich’s Health Care Consultancy: Is It Lobbying?

Monday, December 5th, 2011

“If you’re studying something, and you come to conclusions, and you advocate for a particular position, that’s advocacy,” says Thurber. “That’s lobbying.”

Political science scholar James Thurber of American University says more of the same in “The Best Government Money Can Buy?”

NPR

In between his speakership and his presidential candidacy, Newt Gingrich built a network of organizations to promote his causes — and himself.

Informally known as Newt Gingrich Inc., those entities have flourished. But questions linger, especially about two of them: the Gingrich Group, a for-profit consulting firm; and a unit of the Gingrich Group called the Center for Health Transformation.

The Gingrich Group doesn’t do the shoe-leather lobbying that’s covered by the federal disclosure law. Yet the Center for Health Transformation, one of its big projects, illustrates the kind of Washington activity that lies beyond the reach of the lobbying law — activity that still can look an awful lot like lobbying to outsiders.

A ‘Think-And-Do Tank’?

The Center for Health Transformation isn’t a think tank, and it isn’t a lobby shop. Defining just what it is isn’t easy.

“They want to say, ‘Well, isn’t that lobbying?’ No,” Gingrich told Sean Hannity of Fox News last week. “That’s called being a citizen. As a citizen, I’m allowed to have an opinion.”

The center’s CEO, Nancy Desmond, told NPR: “We have actually had people refer to us as more of a ‘think-and-do tank,’ because it’s not about just thinking about things; it’s actually doing them.”

The Center for Health Transformation doesn’t have clients; it has members — 93 last year, accounting for about $6.9 million in annual dues.

One charter member from 2003 is HealthTrio, a firm that provides systems for electronic medical records.

Back in 2003, Gingrich testified to a Senate committee about the need to move from paper records to digital systems. He singled out one visionary for praise: the head of HealthTrio, which runs an electronic health record program for Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

In 2004, the center brought HealthTrio executives to Washington to meet with congressional leaders and with the secretary of health and human services. It also recommended that the Congressional Budget Office change its standards so that switching to electronic records would look better on agency budgets.

HealthTrio and the Center for Health Transformation also took their case to state governments. And HealthTrio has the center educate prospective clients.

HealthTrio doesn’t regard this as lobbying, says Dave Syposs, a vice president of the firm. “We looked for them as not a lobbying vehicle but more of [an] educational and informational vehicle for us,” he says.

It wasn’t even lobbying, he says, when the center arranged those visits with congressional leadership.

“Our owner, Dr. Malik Hasan, has had, certainly, opportunities to meet with several of the senators and congressmen through his own personal introductions and through some of the members at the Center for Health Transformation,” Syposs says.

And the Center for Health Transformation’s Desmond says Gingrich was always a valuable asset in meetings — but not because of his political clout.

“Obviously, because Newt is such a well-known person, and beyond that he’s so incredibly intelligent,” she says, “it’s helpful to have him as part of the discussion.”

Among those who have puzzled over the Center for Health Transformation — and just what kind of creature it is — is political science scholar James Thurber of American University.

“If you’re studying something, and you come to conclusions, and you advocate for a particular position, that’s advocacy,” says Thurber. “That’s lobbying.”

But ultimately, Thurber says, the center has been simply a vehicle for Gingrich.

“I think that it was a love of Newt to push for health care reform, and he used it to pursue that love or interest, but also used it to make a great deal of money,” he says.

Desmond says the Gingrich Group, including the Center for Health Transformation, grossed nearly $55 million over the past nine years.

Gingrich’s own financial disclosure statement, filed this summer, says that he stepped down as chairman of the Gingrich Group in May. His one continuing tie: He still serves on HealthTrio’s advisory board.

Bloomberg: Tauzin’s $11.6 Million Made Him Highest-Paid Health-Law Lobbyist

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Tauzin, a former Republican U.S. representative from Louisiana, joined PhRMA in 2004, a year after he wrote the law creating Medicare’s prescription drug benefit, a boon to the pharmaceutical industry, while he served as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce committee.

Bloomberg

Billy Tauzin, the former congressman turned pharmaceutical industry lobbyist, was paid $11.6 million in 2010, the year he brokered a deal with President Barack Obama that helped pass the health-care overhaul.

After the law was signed, Tauzin left his job as head of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, as the highest-paid lobbyist among groups most involved in the overhaul debate. Karen Ignagni, leader of the insurer lobby, was paid $1.5 million in 2010 while Tom Donahue at the Chamber of Commerce made $4.8 million, tax records show.

Tauzin did “what loads of other politicians have done — trading on his expertise and connections to amass great personal wealth,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, in a telephone interview. “He’s just more successful at it than others.”

The disclosure of Tauzin’s salary, reported in Internal Revenue Service filings, is renewing questions about the revolving door between government and industry. Last week, Bloomberg News reported that companies founded by Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, a former House speaker, grossed $55 million from 2001 to 2010 for consulting services and memberships in a health-policy center.

It’s alarmingly common for members of Congress to depart for highly paid lobbying jobs, said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics.

‘Cash Out’

“It feeds the public perception that members are doing big industry’s bidding so they can cash out,” said Sloan, whose nonprofit group is based in Washington, in a telephone interview. “It seems like being a member of Congress is just a way-station on the way to a highly paid lobbying job.”

Tauzin, a former Republican U.S. representative from Louisiana, joined PhRMA in 2004, a year after he wrote the law creating Medicare’s prescription drug benefit, a boon to the pharmaceutical industry, while he served as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce committee.

In 2009, as the leader of PhRMA, he brokered a deal capping at $80 billion the amount drugmakers would contribute to the overhaul in return for his organization’s support of the law.

The agreement drew Republican ire and may have contributed to his ouster last year.

The deal was “very influential in getting key patient groups to see that, on balance, the Affordable Care Act was going to be a benefit for them,” Joseph Antos, who studies health policy at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, said in a telephone interview.

Drugs for Seniors

The $80 billion contribution, to be made over 10 years, helped the Obama administration close a gap in Medicare funding, called the donut hole, and allowed health-law supporters to say they were lowering seniors’ costs for prescription drugs. Medicare is the U.S. government health program for the elderly and disabled.

In 2007, Tauzin received $2.06 million as PhRMA’s CEO. His compensation grew to $4.48 million in 2008 and $4.62 million in 2009 before he left in June 2010. The health overhaul was signed into law in March 2010 after more than a year of debate.

Brendan O’Connor, a spokesman for Tauzin’s lobbying firm, Tauzin Consultants, said in an e-mail that the former lawmaker wouldn’t comment on his PhRMA compensation. Matt Bennett, a PhRMA spokesman, said the payout came as a result of Tauzin’s overall contributions, not as a severance payment.

Tauzin joined Congress as a Democrat in 1980, then became a Republican in 1994. According to a press release announcing his 2011 move to the lobbying firm Alston & Bird LLP, he is the only member of Congress to serve in the leadership of both parties.

Reason for Departure

PhRMA said in 2010 that Tauzin’s departure as chief executive officer was voluntary and long planned. His decision to quickly cut a deal with Obama instead of keeping industry options open, though, drew criticism from PhRMA members and contributed to his leaving, said three people familiar with the departure who asked not to be named because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly.

While Tauzin made less in 2010 than the $17 million paid to Ian Read, CEO of New York-based Pfizer Inc. (PFE), the world’s biggest drugmaker, he outpaced Merck & Co.’s Ken Frazier at $9.4 million, and James Cornelius, the chairman of Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., with $3.6 million, according to Bloomberg data.

Tauzin’s pay in his final year at PhRMA was first reported on the website of CEO Update, which collects trade association compensation data. The group said Tauzin’s final pay was comparable to payouts made to Jack Valenti, the former CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, and Ed Kavanaugh, the former top executive at the Personal Care Products Council.

Unlike Tauzin, though, Valenti and Kavanaugh both retired after “decades of service” to their associations, CEO Update wrote on its website.

“To the layman, severance just sounds bad,” said Mark Graham, managing director at CEO Update, in a telephone interview. “To the more sophisticated compensation analysis, that could be kind of what it is.”

Bloomberg: Supercommittee Pits Lobbying Firms’ Clients Against One Another

Monday, September 5th, 2011

The bipartisan congressional supercommittee charged with finding $1.5 trillion in budget savings is leaving Washington lobbying firms in a quandary, seeing their clients pitted against one another in a competition for government cash.

Bloomberg

The bipartisan congressional supercommittee charged with finding $1.5 trillion in budget savings is leaving Washington lobbying firms in a quandary, seeing their clients pitted against one another in a competition for government cash.

Major defense contractors such as Boeing Co. (BA) and Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) have a dozen or more lobbying firms working for them, many of whom also represent the health-care industry, another likely target of budget cuts. While firms often deal with conflicts of interest, the supercommittee represents an unusual challenge, said Clyde Wilcox, a government professor at Georgetown University in Washington.

“This actually is going to be much more like a zero sum game,” Wilcox said. “If someone wins, someone loses.”

Trying to protect clients by stalling action — a classic lobbying tactic — isn’t an option for most because the committee’s failure to meet a Nov. 23 deadline would trigger $1.2 trillion in across-the-board spending cuts in both defense and non-defense spending beginning in 2013.

Lobbying firms will probably try “to finesse any conflicts of interest” and go about business as usual, said Jeffrey Berry, a political science professor who specializes in lobbying at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts.

“What they do behind the scenes is not highly visible,” Berry said. For instance, the firms wouldn’t run major advertising campaigns that prompt a client to “say, hey, why are you lobbying for them when you should be solely concerned with our interest?’” Berry said.

Lobbyists’ Bottom Line

If all else fails, “I suspect that they’ll be rational businesspersons and make a decision based on their long-term financial interest,” Berry said. “They have a bottom line, just like their clients.”

The 12-member panel, whose work has taken on greater urgency since Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. credit rating in August, will be the central focus of political and lobbying activity for the next few months.

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, which Washington’s Center for Responsive Politics ranks as the second-largest lobbying firm with 2011 revenue of $17.7 million, is among those with competing client interests. The firm’s more than 100 clients include companies in insurance, energy, finance and chemicals. The roster also includes Chicago-based Boeing and New York-based Pfizer Inc. (PFE), the world’s biggest drugmaker with stakes in the future of Medicare, the government program for the elderly.

Akin Gump

Akin Gump is also a law firm and as a result has a set conflict of interest policy, said Joel Jankowsky, a senior executive partner at the firm in Washington. Even so, some clients may first look to their industry trade groups to take their case to Congress rather than his lobbyists, he said.

“It’s largely a question of what they decide their strategy is going to be and whether or not they want us to engage on their behalf,” Jankowsky said.

Tony Podesta, whose Podesta Group ranks third among lobbying firms with 2011 revenue of $13.7 million, said he will do what he always does: advocate for all of his clients and try to persuade panel members that their programs are meritorious. Lobbyists won’t be in the position of suggesting cuts to rival programs, he said.

“It doesn’t feel to me that this is going to be the ’Sophie’s Choice’ of lobbying,” Podesta said.

‘Affordable Medicines’

Boeing and Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed didn’t respond to requests for comment on their lobbying of the supercommittee. Lockheed “will continue to work with our customers throughout the process to understand the potential impact to our business,” spokesman Rob Fuller said in a statement.

Pfizer wouldn’t comment on its lobbying plans or potential conflicts, though Chief Executive Officer Ian Read has said his company will fight attempts to cut Medicare payments for medicines. Spokesman Raul Damas said the company “will continue raising awareness” about how the government prescription drug benefit has provided “affordable medicines” for seniors.

The firms downplayed the potential for problems. Patton Boggs LLP, which ranks at the top of the lobbying list with $18.8 million in revenue this year and is also a law firm, has “very formal and thorough mechanisms” for resolving conflicts of interest, said Nicholas Allard, who runs the lobbying, political and election law practice.

Persuasion of the supercommittee might be comparable to the general lobbying always under way on behalf of a range of clients or an omnibus spending bill, said Stewart Verdery, partner and founder of Monument Policy Group. The firm’s clients include Boeing, defense contractor General Dynamics Corp. (GD), drugmaker Eli Lilly & Co. (LLY) and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the trade group representing drugmakers.

“It’s akin to working with congressional leadership, which we — as most firms — do all the time,” Verdery said. “They may have a role to play in pretty much everything of importance.”

CBS News: Senators rail at big pharma’s secretive lobbying

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Despite his protestations, Senator Baucus has accepted over $1 million dollars in campaign contributions from Pharma and health professional during the past 6 years.

CBS News

Lovenox earned its maker – the French company Sanofi – more than $2 billion per year. So when the FDA began considering a cheaper, generic version of the costly drug in 2007, Sanofi sprang into action to try and slow the process.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) called Sanofi’s actions “an outrage,” adding that “frankly we’ve got to find ways to stop it.”

Sen. Baucus chairs the Senate Finance Committee, which issued a report this week accusing Sanofi of “paying off doctors to lobby the FDA against generics.”

According to the report, the Society for Hospital Medicine received more than $2.6 million over 3 years from Sanofi for sponsorship and conferences. Sanofi urged them to send letters to the FDA questioning the safety of generics.

In an internal email, an executive at the society admitted it “has no history of making similar comments to the FDA” and lacked “the expertise and knowledge” to weigh in on the matter.

But the society sent two letters anyway. Warning in one, “an untested generic substitution…is not in our patients’ best interest”

Baucus said of the incident: “I think if the FDA receives letter recommendations from the medical companies, from doctors, they should have a disclosure requirement. That is, tell us Mr. Doctor, tell us Mr. Medical Association, are you bought and sold?”

Sanofi paid $2.3 million to the North American Thrombosis Foundation, which also wrote to the FDA to warn of the “potential for unanticipated adverse events” from generic drugs.

Columbus Dispatch: Lobbyists count on campaign donations

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Ohio is a key influence state for those politicians with national aspirations.  Here’s a look at how campaign contributions are working on a state level.

Columbus Dispatch

It’s not the $200,000-plus lobbyists shelled out in the past two years to influence Ohio legislators that’s so bad, a new study contends.

It’s the almost $740,000 in campaign contributions.

But wait, there’s more!

The study “Lobbyists – Affluence & Influence,” conducted by the nonpartisan watchdog group Ohio Citizen Action, found:

“There are more than 90 lobbying firms active in Ohio. Together these firms contributed $138,235 to statewide and legislative candidates. Contract lobbyists associated with these firms contributed an additional $776,287. Law firms that specialize in government relations contributed $1,047,661, and contract lobbyists associated with these firms contributed an additional $383,854.

“All together these ‘hired guns’ contributed $2,346,037.

“What rules the day are not the gifts. What rules the day are campaign contributions,” said Catherine Turcer, director of Citizen Action’s money-in-politics project – who readily acknowledges that she herself is a registered lobbyist.

While such giving likely cannot be stopped, Turcer said she would like to see a ban on hiring lobbyists to raise money for a candidate and on lobbyists hosting a fundraiser.

She also sees a problem with a lack of transparency.

The state only tracks the “wining and dining” outlays by lobbyists. Getting their campaign contributions requires plugging in their names and firms individually in the secretary of state’s database – an undertaking that took Citizen Action two months.

“No matter what, we want to be able to follow the money,” Turcer said. “We want a process that’s open.”

The study found that the top 50 lobbyists together attended 725 candidate fundraisers in 2009-10, contributing a combined total of almost $500,000. Twenty-two lobbyists took in at least a dozen fundraisers. One, independent lobbyist Sean Dunn, hit 54.

Lobbyists do well at picking legislative winners. Of the $398,000 given to House candidates for last year’s election, $358,000 went to those who eventually prevailed, researchers discovered. Of $96,000 for Senate hopefuls, about $75,000 wound up in the pockets of the victors’ campaigns.

Bloomberg: Insurers Gave U.S. Chamber $86 Million Used to Oppose Obama’s Health Law

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Bloomberg reports on the identity of at least one major donor group to the US Chamber of Commerce’s campaigns.

Bloomberg

Health insurers last year gave the U.S. Chamber of Commerce $86.2 million that was used to oppose the health-care overhaul law, according to tax records and people familiar with the donation.

The insurance lobby, whose members include Minnetonka, Minnesota-based UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Cigna Corp. of Philadelphia, gave the money to the Chamber in 2009 as Democrats increased criticism of the industry, according to a person who requested anonymity because laws don’t require identifying funding sources. The Chamber got the money from the America’s Health Insurance Plans as the industry urged Congress to drop a plan to create a competing government-run insurance plan.

Clearly the secrecy was important to industry,” Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics, said in an interview. The group tracks money in politics and isn’t affiliated with a political party. “Eighty-six million dollars is an astonishing sum,” she said.

The spending on the Chamber exceeded the insurer group’s entire budget from a year earlier and accounted for 40 percent of the Chamber’s $214.6 million in 2009 expenditures.

Los Angeles Times: Some Democrats favor a shift to more outside campaign spending

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

The Los Angeles Times reports on the scramble among some Democrats to use the Republican model of outside campaign spending despite President Obama’s aversion to it.

Los Angeles Times

Dozens of wealthy Democrats are expected to debate a change in their approach this month in Washington during a meeting of Democracy Alliance, an organization of more than 100 liberal donors set up five years ago to help the left build a long-term campaign and policy infrastructure.

“We should certainly learn from what the right wing has done,” says Steve Phillips, who leads a California-based political advocacy group, PowerPAC.org, and plans to attend the gathering. “We’ve been a little overly purist in our approach in a way that we’re maybe paying a political price for.”

The growing consensus among many party strategists that there is a need to create an expanded independent expenditure effort for 2012 represents a rejection of Obama’s long-standing opposition to large-dollar outside spending.

During the 2008 campaign, Obama condemned such independent campaigns, even though he benefited from many of them.

Robust fundraising by Democratic campaigns and party committees helped Democrats collect nearly as much as Republicans did overall. But when it came to the more than $300 million spent by outside groups, Republicans benefited by a margin of more than 2 to 1, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

There is still debate within the party about whether Democrats should set up “soft money” organizations similar to the ones cofounded by Rove, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS.

Michael Vachon, an advisor to billionaire George Soros, said it was a mistake — practically and philosophically — for the Democrats to give up the high ground on campaign finance reform to compete with Republicans and their allies.

“Their resources will  always be too great because the funds come from those who are acting in their own economic self-interest. The way to respond is to change the way campaigns are funded and to require public disclosure of funders,” Vachon said.

New York Times: Drowning in Campaign Cash

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

Te New York Times editorializes today on the flood of campaign cash.

New York Times

Combining both traditional and outside money, Republicans have slightly outraised Democrats, $1.64 billion to $1.59 billion, but there is more to be tallied.

While large secret donations have been legalized, it is not clear that the 501(c) groups spending the money on barrages of attack ads are playing by the last, threadbare rules. The tax code requires that these groups not be “primarily engaged” in political advocacy, but neither the Internal Revenue Service nor the Federal Election Commission has made any apparent effort to investigate what other purpose they might have. Some groups have suggested they would begin nonpolitical activities — after the election.

What is clear is that the new world of unlimited spending, both open and secret, confers huge benefits on wealthy individuals, corporations and unions. In a striking example, reported by ABC News last week, Terry Forcht, a prominent Kentucky banker and nursing home executive, helped pay for a series of attack ads against Attorney General Jack Conway, the Democratic Senate candidate. Mr. Conway is prosecuting one of Mr. Forcht’s nursing homes for allegedly covering up sexual abuse.

Mr. Forcht has directly raised at least $21,000 for Mr. Conway’s Republican opponent, Rand Paul. He serves as the banker for American Crossroads, the shadowy group of nonprofits organized by Karl Rove that has spent nearly $30 million to defeat Democrats and more than $1 million to defeat Mr. Conway.

This year, of course, is just batting practice for 2012

Chicago Tribune:How health lobbyists influenced reform bill

Friday, December 25th, 2009

The Chicago Tribune on the influence of lobbyists on the health care legislative process focusing on the revolving door of Washington insiders:

Story here:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/chi-health-lobbyists_bddec20,0,4912184,full.story

At least 166 former aides from the nine congressional leadership offices and five committees involved in shaping health overhaul legislation — along with at least 13 former lawmakers — registered to represent at least 338 health care clients since the beginning of last year, according to the analysis.

Their health care clients spent $635 million on lobbying over the past two years, the study shows.

The total of insider lobbyists jumps to 278 when non-health-care firms that reported lobbying on health issues are added in, the analysis found.

Part of the lobbying pressure on current members of Congress and staffers comes from the powerful lure of post-congressional job possibilities.

“There’s always a worry they may be thinking about their future employment opportunities when dealing with these issues, particularly with health care, because the stakes are so high and the breadth of the issues — pharmacies, hospitals, doctors,” said Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz.

Lobbyists’ earnings can dwarf congressional salaries, which currently top out at $174,000 annually for lawmakers and $156,000 for aides, though committee staff members can earn slightly more.