Obama Received $20 Million from Healthcare Industry in 2008 Campaign

Published on
by
Raw Story

Obama Received $20 Million from Healthcare Industry in 2008 Campaign

Almost three times the amount given to McCain

by
Brad Jacobson

While
some sunlight has been shed on the hefty sums shoveled into
congressional campaign coffers in an effort to influence the Democrats'
massive healthcare bill, little attention has been focused on the far
larger sums received by President Barack Obama while he was a candidate
in 2008.

A new figure, based on an exclusive analysis created for
Raw Story by the Center for Responsive Politics, shows that President
Obama received a staggering $20,175,303 from the healthcare industry
during the 2008 election cycle, nearly three times the amount of his
presidential rival John McCain. McCain took in $7,758,289, the Center
found.

The new figure, obtained by Raw Story through an
independent custom research request performed by the Center for
Responsive Politics -- a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that tracks money
in politics -- is the most comprehensive breakdown yet available of
healthcare industry contributions to Obama during the 2008 election
cycle.

Currently, the Center's website shows that Obama received $19,462,986 from the health sector, which includes health professionals ($11.7m), health services/HMOs ($1.4m), hospitals/nursing homes ($3.3m) and pharmaceuticals/health products
($2.1m). Miscellaneous health donations (from which Obama received
$860,411) are also factored into the current total health sector
numbers but are not accessible on the site.

Health
insurance industry contributions, however, are not included within the
Center's current health sector totals. Rather, contributions from the
health insurance industry are contained within the site's finance and
insurance sector. Seeking a more complete total, the Center culled
health and accident insurance donations from this sector (for which
Obama received $712,317) and combined them with his existing health
sector total ($19,462,986) to arrive at his healthcare industry total
($20,175,303).

The
Center employed the same methodology in its analysis for John McCain
and based all of its findings on the latest data released by the
Federal Election Commission.

Dave Levinthal, the Center's
communications director, noted that Obama out-raised McCain in nearly
all business sectors that contributed to the 2008 presidential
candidates. In that regard, the healthcare industry figure is not in
itself an anomaly.

But Levinthal underscored the significance of the industry's largess.

"What
it also means when you look at it just on its own merit is that Obama
definitely has a relationship with the health sector," Levinthal told
Raw Story. "When you raise $20 million from one group, obviously
they've curried some favor with you and you have a lot of people in
that sector who support you. So to say that just because he out-raised
McCain overall doesn't mean anything in the context of the health
sector might not necessarily be true."

"People want to be able to
curry favor with those who are in power," he added. "And one way to do
that is by making donations to candidates and officials who are
represented by the party in power. Or who look like they're going to
win."

The White House did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

Gary
Jacobson, a campaign finance expert and political science professor at
the University of California, San Diego, says the healthcare industry
saw the writing on the wall and sought to "protect their interests."

"Contributors expect access," Jacobson, author of Money in Congressional Elections, told Raw Story. The healthcare industry "anticipated an Obama victory and they wanted to be in the game."

While
experts agreed that there is certainly nothing illegal about receiving
such copious contributions from the industry within the current U.S.
system of campaign financing, all emphasized the inevitable impact this
money has in influencing public policy.

Obama's considerable windfall from the healthcare industry merits attention, they said.

Mary
Boyle, spokeswoman for government watchdog Common Cause, said that her
organization has been mostly focused on what members of Congress have
received in campaign contributions from the healthcare industry. But
she called Obama's campaign receipts from the industry "not surprising."

"The
healthcare industry has been ramping up in recent years in anticipation
of this healthcare debate, giving both to Democrats and Republicans,"
Boyle explained in an interview with Raw Story.

Some experts who
spoke with Raw Story also noted the rather stark evolution from
candidate Obama, who once advocated for universal healthcare and was a
vocal critic of mandated health insurance, to President Obama, who
excluded single-payer advocates from White House healthcare summits and
who has since strongly embraced mandates.

Obama delegate now takes umbrage with healthcare position

Historian
and media critic Norman Solomon, who was also an Obama delegate to the
Democratic National Convention, called the president's transformation
on healthcare since taking office "shameful."

"Overall it's been
a very corporate friendly healthcare approach from Obama as president,"
Solomon said in an interview with Raw Story. "Corporate friendly in a
way that I believe is injurious to public health."

He underscored the subtle but substantive change in healthcare language used by Obama and the White House.

"We
don't hear so much now about ‘healthcare reform,'" Solomon said. "We're
hearing a lot more about ‘health insurance reform.' And that is
absolutely in large measure driven by the White House."

He also concurred with Boyle's assessment on the success of the industry's special interests.

"The
funding from the healthcare industry to the Obama campaign, in
retrospect, was not misplaced," Solomon said. "It appears, based on
policy, that those funders are getting what they would've hoped for."

"Let
me put it this way," he added. "Single-payer advocates literally
couldn't get into the White House. And you have [chief pharmaceutical
industry lobbyist and former Republican congressman] Billy Tauzin and
Big Pharma and all of these in-depth strategy meetings in the White
House in mid-2009 cutting deals. And I think it's shameful."

But Boyle puts the blame more on the campaign financing system than on President Obama.

"It's
getting worse every year," she said. "This story line is going to
continue until the end of time until we change the way we pay for our
political campaigns. It's the system. Everyone's stuck in it. Everyone
gets kind of caught up in it."

Yet she believes these new numbers
clearly show the industry was "trying to gain access and influence to
the president, just as they have tried -- and been quite successful --
at gaining access to members of Congress."

Boyle also noted the industry's success in achieving this goal over the course of the healthcare debate.

"We've
seen many examples of the healthcare industry's interests - and we
would argue that a lot of it has to do with the money - prevailing over
the public interest," she said. "The fact is, we have this broken
system that allows interests that want the most out of government to
have the loudest voice and to get that loudest voice by contributing
the most money and spending the most money."

Brad Jacobson is a contributing investigative reporter for Raw Story.

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