About those lobbyists who visited the President

(10 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Curious about who those lobbyists were with whom Obama has been meeting? First a quick rant and then we can look at who these people are and what they are all about after the fold.

Too often, we see the word “lobbyist” and reflexively think “bad,” “evil,” “spawn of Satan,” and “lower than the poop I stepped in while walking in the park the other day.”

While that may be true for some of them, like this guy, there are some “good” lobbyists, too. Organizations like the American Cancer Society, Sierra Club, and Human Rights Campaign are just as much lobbyists as PMA Group. Furthermore, every time you call your Senator or member of Congress, you are a citizen lobbyist.

The real problem is that the “bad” lobbyists (read: lobbyists who represent big business rather than the consumers, workers, or the public interest) are better funded than legitimate public interest groups. Lobbying is a double edged sword. On one hand, lobbyists provide policy makers with specialized knowledge to help them set better policy. On the other hand, that “advice” inevitably comes with its own little spin.

The current kerfuffle is over the fact that the White House would not release the list of lobbyists who have met with President Obama regarding health care reform until just before Thursday’s press conference. Here is the Politico article that gives us the list.

As an aside, I would offer that it would be more helpful to have a list of lobbyist visitors to members of the congressional committees that are working on health care reform.

Now let’s look at those lobbyist and follow some dollars.

Bill Tauzin visited the White House on March 5, May 19, June 2, and June 24.

Billy Tauzin is the president and CEO of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). PhRMA claims to be an advocate for patients and their access to medicines. In addition, they want health care reform that would create and sustain “an economic environment in the United States that rewards medical innovation.” In other words, they represent big Pharma. Tauzin’s name is familiar because he represented Louisiana’s third Congressional District from 1980 until 2006. He was a Democrat until switching parties in 1995.

PhRMA does not support the Tri-Committee bill in the House, but they do support the HELP committee bill. (Note that these two press releases were issued one day apart.)

Lobbying money spent so far in 2009: more than $6.9 million.  

Karen Ignagni visited the White House on March 5, 6, and 11 and June 30.

Karen Iganagni is the President and CEO of American Health Insurance Plans, which represents Health Maintenance Organizations. AHIP supports a “bipartisan” health insurance plan and opposes a public option.

Lobbying money spent so far in 2009: Just over $2 million.

Richard Umbdenstock visited the White House on February 4, February 23; March 5, March 25, March 30; April 6, and May 22.

Richard Umbdenstock is president and CEO of the American Hospital Association. I can’t get it to link, but there is a link on AHA’s home page discussing health care reform. They seem to generally favor a public option plan. This makes sense because hospitals want to make sure they get paid. They are concerned about making sure that their reimbursements are adequate. Again, this is a legitimate concern because hospitals need to make sure they have enough money to operate, and there are already concerns in the industry about Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.

More information here.

Lobbying money spent so far in 2009: Almost $4.6 million, $1 million of that was on behalf of state hospital associations.

J. James Rohack visited the White House on March 25, June 22, and June 24.


J. James Rohack (.pdf link) is president and CEO of the American Medical Association. The AMA supports HR 3200, which is the tri-committee bill in the House. They support the public option, end to denial of service, access to primary care, and prevention services. They also want “Initiatives to address physician workforce concerns.” Again, that is not surprising.

Lobbying money spent so far in 2009: $4.44 million

William C. Weldon visited the White House on May 12.

William C. Weldon is President and CEO of Johnson and Johnson, the pharmaceutical and medical device company. They earn 40 percentof their profits from U.S. sales of those products. J&J seems to support a public option while keeping the private industry. Of course, J&J’s main motivation is getting paid, not necessarily where the money comes from.

Lobbying money spent so far in 2009: $1.75 million

Jeffrey B. Kindler visited the White House on March 5, May 6, and June 2.

Jeffrey B. Kindler is CEO and Chairman of the Board for pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. Pfizer seems to support enlargement of Medicare and Medicaid and subsidizing citizens to buy private insurance rather than establishing a public option. FWIW: They also support Health Information Technology. Read more about Kindler’s views here (.pdf link).

Lobbying money spent so far in 2009: $6.14 million

Stephen J. Hemsley visited the White House on May 15 and 22.

Stephen J. Hemsley is president and CEO of UnitedHealth Group, which represents health insurance companies. Here is their latest commercial:

Unsurprisingly, they talk about reducing health care costs, but nothing about a public options, which would compete with private health insurance. Their official position is here.

Lobbying money spent so far in 2009: $1.62 million

Angela F. Braly visited the White House on February 13.

Angela Braly is President and CEO of WellPoint Inc. WellPoint is “deeply disappointed” with the HELP Committee bill and any reform that relies on “price controls and government expansion.” WellPoint is essentially Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

Notice that she was only invited to the White House once.

Lobbying money spent so far in 2009: Just over $5 million

George Halvorson visited the White House on March 27 and June 5.

George Halvorson is president and CEO of Kaiser Permanente, a major not for profit health insurance company. Here is the company’s press release about a May 11 meeting. At that meeting, K-P discussed decreasing health care costs. The company is even helpful enough to show us their latest ad campaign. They at least recognize “disparities” in health coverage. I could not find a specific mention of supporting or opposing a public option.

Lobbying money spent so far in 2009: $90,000

Jay Gellert visited the White House on February 10, March 11, and March 20.

Jay Gellert is President and CEO of Health Net, another health insurance company. This one offers both private insurance and has federal contracts to provide insurance through Medicare, Medicaid and Veterans Administration programs. I could not find a specific statement about their position on the health care reform debate.

Lobbying money spent so far in 2009: $530,000

Thomas Priselac visited the White House on April 3.

Thomas Priselac is President and CEO of Cedars-Sinai Health System in Los Angles. He met with the president in his role as chair of the American Hospital Association, which was detailed above. Priselac’s role was to discuss decreasing health care costs, which would go a long way toward increasing coverage.

Lobbying money spent so far in 2009: $150,000

Richard Clark visited the White House on March 24.

Richard T. Clark is President and CEO of Merck and Co., another pharmaceutical company. Merck is for mandatory coverage, government subsidies for those who cannot afford coverage, and removing tax incentives for private insurance to make unlimited profits. Source. This statement was also from the May 11 meeting that is detailed at the end of the Politico article, which seems to have been open to the press and public.

Lobbying money spent so fare in 2009: $1.98 million

Wayne T. Smith visited the White House on June 4.

Wayne T. Smith is Chairman of the Board of Directors of Community Health Systems, which owns 120 acute care hospitals in 29 states. I could not find specific statements on their position on health care reform or lobbying expenditures. I would assume that their position on reform is close to that of the American Hospital Association.

Rick Smith visited the White House on May 19 and June 2.

This is a fairly common name, but it is probably referring to Rick Smith of Maverick Health Care Counseling, a consulting firm based in Atlanta that helps health providers operate more efficiently and improve quality of care. Again, I could not find statements on their position nor any record of lobbying expenditures.

So there you have it. We had the good and the bad; the known and the unknown. What is interesting is that there is such a diversity of opinion on the public option and other issues we have been discussing here for months.

This will be crossposted on Daily Kos and Congress Matters, but I am too lazy to link it right now.    


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  1. you know you want to.

  2. result.  Regarding good lobbies vs bad lobbies, sure there are good lobbies, but the gist of the thing is money.  Money talks, bullshit walks.  Why on earth would they “contribute” all this money if they didn’t want and expect influence.  The game is as old as the hills.  So Obama might be a little more inclusive, but my bet is the game is still rigged.  

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