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Washington Lobbyists Cash in on Health Reform
Record Amount Spent Lobbying on a Single Issue, Experts Say
WASHINGTON - March 26 - While patients, taxpayers, and lawmakers debate the impact of the new health care reform law, one result is clear: The epic battle was a bonanza for K Street lobbyists.
The Center for Public Integrity analysis of 2009 lobbyist disclosure data, "Washington Lobbying Giants Cash in on Health Reform Debate," shows the biggest winners, based on number of lobbying clients, from health care reform. They are Patton Boggs LLP, Alston & Bird LLP, Foley Hoag LLP, Podesta Group Inc., Capital Tax Partners LLP, Holland & Knight LLP, Dutko Worldwide LLC, Drinker Biddle & Reath LP, Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti Inc., Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP, Bryan Cave LLP, and Van Scoyoc Associates.
The clients who hired these firms ranged from influential industry associations to small non-profit advocacy groups. Some hired more than one of the top firms to lobby for their interests. Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, for example, hired Capital Tax Partners, Dutko, Mehlman, and 22 other outside firms, in addition to the group's own in-house lobbyists. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. hired Patton Boggs, Podesta Group, Mehlman, and Bryan Cave.
About 1,750 businesses and organizations hired about 4,525 lobbyists, total - eight for each member of Congress - and spent at least $1.2 billion to influence health care bills and other issues, according to a Center analysis of disclosure documents that included "health reform" or similar wording. The exact dollar amount spent on health care reform remains unclear because lobbyists are not required to itemize how much money in a given contract is devoted to a specific area. But if only 10 percent of that lobby spending went toward health reform, the amount would total $120 million - and that's likely a record for a single year's spending on a particular issue, experts say.
From former congressional aides to former agency heads, the firms unleashed well-connected lobbyists to push their clients' agendas, including Thomas Scully, a former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President George W. Bush, and Colette Desmarais, a former top health policy aide to Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley. Scully is now a lobbyist with Alston & Bird LLP and Desmarais works for Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti Inc.
The tremendous financial boost that health reform brought to lobby firms in 2009 was greater than even veteran observers expected. "I think it is unprecedented," Washington lawyer and lobbying expert Ken Gross said about the amount of money spent on the health reform battle. The length of the debate, paired with the more than 1,750 business and organizations that signed up to lobby on health reform bills, likely made it the strongest and most expensive lobby push ever, he said.
"First of all, it went on for so long," Gross said. "Second of all, it was high-stakes poker. It stands to reason that it would be a record-breaker."