Health lobbying means cash infusion for candidates, TV stations

"Health care groups working feverishly to shape -- or kill -- an industry-wide reform bill are lavishing campaign cash on the politicians at the center of the debate," The Salt Lake (Utah) Tribune reports.

Sens. Orrin Hatch and Max Baucus, both major health reform players on the Senate Finance Committee, are among those benefiting form the uptick in contributions. One lobbyist for the watchdog group Public Citizen said, "A person can reach no other conclusion than this is quid pro quo activity" (Canham, 7/27).

In the second quarter of this year, groups spent $257.5 million, CQ Politics reports. That number shows "the breadth of interest in the issue. Those lobbying Congress and federal officials on health care include banks, high-tech companies, automobile manufacturers and oil companies, as well as hospitals, doctors’ groups and drug companies." Various campaigns by advocacy groups in particular seek to push or derail reform efforts (Roth and Knott, 7/26).

The lobbying is also shaping unusual alliances. Service Employees International Union President Andy Stern, for instance, has cultivated a relationship with Wal-Mart, which he is leveraging to gain attention in Washington, the Wall Street Journal reports. SEIU and Wal-Mart sent a joint letter to the White House last month, drawing attention because the workers and the major employer have previously clashed over labor issues. "Mr. Stern said the Wal-Mart alliance has helped open doors with lawmakers" (Trottman, 7/27).

Charlotte Observer: "It's July in a nonelection year, but the state's political machinery is fully engaged. Rallies, phone banks and door-to-door canvassing are under way, TV commercials fill airwaves, and petitions appear beside ripe tomatoes at farmers markets." A concentration of conservative Democrats who could make or break reform efforts, as well as health industry staples like GlaxoSmithKline, make North Carolina a critical battleground for lobbyists and activists alike (Christensen, 7/26).

The lobbying boom has also formed a much-needed opportunity for television stations, the Wall Street Journal reports in a separate story. "Altogether, groups on various sides of the debate have spent an average of about $1 million a day in recent weeks [on advertising meant to sway the reform debate], analysts say."  The paper adds: "So far the lion's share of dollars in the health-care debate has been spent on local-TV stations and national cable news networks, such as Time Warner's CNN and News Corp.'s Fox News" (Vranica and Mundy, 7/27).

The New York Times: Meanwhile, lawmakers are seeking to fight back against some television ad campaigns. Several proposals circulating in Congress would ban some drug ads. One would outlaw ads for drugs like Viagra on decency grounds, while another would attempt to block ads because "you should not be diagnosed by some pitchman on TV," as Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., who introduced the bill, put it (Singer, 7/26).

Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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