Tag Archives: lobbying

Ex-Hill honchos make lobbying roundtrip

You can’t tell the health-care lobbyists without a program. So The Washington Post, working with data from the Center for Responsive Politics, has come up with one just in time for the next round of health-reform negotiations on Capitol Hill.

More than 350 former congressmen, committee staffers and federal bigwigs are busily advancing the interests of drugmakers, insurers, hospitals and medical groups, the Post reports.

Buying influence is easy but it ain’t cheap. The Post calculates the “record-breaking” campaign is costing the health-care industry more than $1.4 million a day.

What does it get for the money? A seat at the table, for starters, and maybe much more. For their part, the ex-government employees get a pretty rich payday.

“For people like me who are on the outside and used to be on the inside, this is great, because there is a level of trust in these relationships, and I know the policy rationale that is required,” Richard Tarplin, a lobbyist working for the American Medical Association, told the Post. Tarplin used to work for Health and Human Services and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who’s a key player in the health debate.

From The Washington Post

From The Washington Post

If you do nothing else, check out the slick graphic showing the influence of ex-staffers from the Senate Finance Committee.

NPR series follows the money on health reform

A new NPR series, Dollar Politics, looks to, both figuratively and literally, turn the camera away from the politicians up on stage and train it on the army of lobbyists and special interest representatives that has descended upon the city.

Between 1998 and 2008, the number of registered lobbyists on health care more than doubled, to 3,627, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The statistic doesn’t include players who don’t engage in lobbying as defined by federal law — among them, grass-roots organizers, producers of TV campaigns and former members of Congress who remain in Washington as senior advisers to corporate clients.

Spending on lobbying jumped even higher over the past decade. Organizations lobbying on health care spent $484.4 million in 2008, more than two and a half times the spending in 1998.

In addition to looking at where the money is coming from and why its being spent, NPR reporters Peter Overby and Andrea Seabrook also considered the effects of this massive cash infusion, writing that with so many interests pushing and pulling on every decision, gridlock may set in. As the series goes on, they hope to track even more of the money and connect the lobbying dots.

Politics trumped FDA scientists’ objections

The Wall Street Journal‘s Alicia Mundy chronicles how political lobbying can overcome scientists’ objections and influence the FDA approval process. At issue is a fast-tracked product aimed to better treat meniscus tears.

The FDA’s internal dissent over Menaflex … is straining a government agency that oversees a quarter of the U.S. economy. Some senior FDA staff members complained in documents that the handling of Menaflex, made by ReGen Biologics Inc., shows how political and industry pressure can influence scientific conclusions.

After being rejected for special status both in 2006 and 2007 and against the recommendations of FDA scientists, Menaflex was fast-tracked and approved under a process meant to expedite products similar to those already available, Mundy reported, even though there weren’t really any similar devices on the market.

Dr. Schultz, the FDA official who signed off on Menaflex, says he found ReGen “adversarial” and “extremely aggressive” but didn’t let the company’s pressure affect his decision.

A ReGen representative said the firm needed to be “aggressive” and “adversarial” because if it hadn’t “confronted” delays caused by the FDA, “ReGen would have been out of business and a very valuable device would have been unavailable to patients.”