"Some of the most influential aides in the closed-door Senate Finance Committee negotiations over health care reform have ties to interests that would be directly affected by the legislation," reports Politico.com.
It is easy to think of efforts to influence lawmakers as the exclusive domain of K Street lobbyists. Much has been said and written about the millions of dollars the special interests are spending on lobbying activities and the hundreds of lobbyists who are at work as we speak trying to shape health care reform legislation. Very little by comparison has been written about the millions of dollars that special interests are spending on PR activities to accomplish the same goal and that are vital to successful lobbying efforts.
One of the reasons I left my job at CIGNA, where I headed corporate communications and was part of the Legal & Public Affairs division, was because I did not want to be involved in yet another PR and lobbying campaign to kill or gut reform. I finally came to question the ethics of what I had done and been a part of for nearly two decades to influence decision-making and bill writing on Capitol Hill.
"As the debate intensifies in Congress, health care sector contributions to lawmakers on the committees overseeing" proposals for health care reform "are on the upswing," according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. In the first half of 2009, "health care interests donated $19.7 million to all federal lawmakers.
"For America's No. 1 taxpayer watchdog, as Citizens Against Government Waste calls itself, the jet engines seem easy prey. The federal government is already spending billions for Pratt & Whitney to develop engines for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Why spend billions more for General Electric to do the same?
Saturday, August 29 I had the good fortune to speak at a community rally for health care reform in a city park in downtown Portland, Oregon. It was a broad-based and diverse group with many signs and placards supporting the 'public option' being debated by Congress, and others calling for 'single payer' reform like that working effectively in other countries such as Canada. Here is what I said:
I would like to begin by apologizing to all of you for the role I played 15 years ago in cheating you out of a reformed health care system. Had it not been for greedy insurance companies and other special interests, and their army of lobbyists and spin-doctors like I used to be, we wouldn't be here today.
I'm ashamed that I let myself get caught up in deceitful and dishonest PR campaigns that worked so well, hundreds of thousands of our citizens have died, and millions of others have lost their homes and been forced into bankruptcy, so that a very few corporate executives and their Wall Street masters could become obscenely rich.
I'm beginning to think that the Kool-Aid being served at meetings of the Senate Finance Committee's soon-to-be infamous Gang of Six is coming from either fantasy land or the health insurance industry.
For those of you who might not be following the sorry machinations of health care reform in the Senate Finance Committee, the Gang of Six is a group of three Democrats and three Republicans hand-picked by Committee Chair Max Baucus, who is one of the three Democrats. The gang meets often, supposedly drafting a bipartisan bill. In reality, if such a bill emerges, it will be a gift to the insurance industry because the gang includes some of the industry's best friends on Capitol Hill.
Lobbyists will often argue that a major reason clients hire them is because of their deep personal connections with decision makers.
Steve Elmendorf, who founded Elmendorf Strategies in 2007, was an adviser to various Democratic Party campaigns and politicians for over 25 years. So his connections with Democratic Party movers and shakers seem beyond dispute.