By Sarah Bryner
267 former aides who worked for four congressional committees pivotal in approving new healthcare legislation are registered lobbyists for clients from the health sector or health insurance industry, according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ analysis of Senate lobbying data.
In addition, 18 former lawmakers also swung through the revolving door and now serve health care clients as lobbyists, partners or counsel at well-known firms such as Arent Fox LLP, Alston & Bird or Greenberg Traurig LLP.
113 of the total 285 lobbyists specifically lobbied on the American Health Care Act, the health care bill passed by the House. Our lobbying data only goes through March 31st, so it is likely that all of these numbers will increase on July 21st when we collect lobbying information for the period from April 1stthrough June 30th. Unfortunately, very few clients discuss their position on legislation when disclosing their lobbying activities, so we cannot say which position these lobbyists were taking.
Some lobbyists and lobbying clients disclose their positions voluntarily. One such lobbyist, Mary Tirrell, was formerly an aide to Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) and now lobbies on health care issues as vice president of government and legislative affairs for Lehigh Valley Hospital and Health Network. Tirrell’s most recent lobbying report from the first quarter of 2017 shows she advocated for repealing the Affordable Care Act and replacing it with the House of Representatives’ American Health Care Act. Her past lobbying reports show a history of involvement with various health care issues. Previously, Tirrell served as director of community and economic development for Rick Santorum when he was a senator for Pennsylvania.
Another revolver also worked for one of the Senate’s “swing votes.” Amanda Makki was a legislative aide to Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) for almost eight years, and eventually became her top healthcare adviser. Before that she was a health policy adviser to Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.). In 2014, she left her work in Congress to become a lobbyist. Now, she is director of external affairs and FDA for Novo Nordisk, a global diabetes care company. Her most recent lobbying report from the first quarter of 2017 shows her involvement in issues such as prescription drug use and diabetes prevention. She also lobbied on the House of Representatives’ American Health Care Act.
Some organizations have taken public positions on the AHCA and the Senate’s still-under debate Better Healthcare Reconciliation Act. The American Medical Association, which represents doctors, opposes both the House and Senate healthcare packages. Three of its lobbyists have insider connections. Sage Eastman and Lauren Aronson both used to work for the House Ways and Means Committee and now lobby for Mehlman, Castagnetti et al. Andrew Wankum, one of the AMA’s staff lobbyists, worked for Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) prior to lobbying.
The largest trade association for the insurance industry, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) issued a more measured response to the AHCA, supporting some revisions in the House plan but expressing concern about others. AHIP had three revolving door connections to the health care committees or members. Blue Cross/Blue Shield, the largest insurance company in the US, issued a similar statement, and has 15 connections.
The client with the most revolving door connections is the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America. PhRMA, the largest trade association representing the pharmaceutical industry, has not yet taken a position on the healthcare bills
These 285 revolving door lobbyists and their spouses have donated $3.8 million since 2008 to members of Congress serving on these committees — including $1.3 million during the 2016 cycle. Jeffrey MacKinnon, who represents 12 health care clients through his firm Farragut Partners, donated $191,450 since 2016 to mostly Republicans. MacKinnon was Rep. Joe Barton’s (R-Texas) Legislative Director in the early 1990s.
These revolving door lobbyists have donated much more money to Republican members of the five healthcare-focused committees than to Democrats, particularly in 2016, which is unsurprising given that there are more Republicans in Congress. Although many of these lobbyists have diverse client rosters, with clients from other sectors besides health care, the spike in donations to Republicans in 2016 is striking.
While the partisan breakdown of giving during the past few cycles by health care lobbyists who are not revolvers is similar to that for revolvers, the likelihood of giving is much lower. Of the 1,121 healthcare lobbyists who have not been through the revolving door just 262, or less than a quarter, have given a total of $2.4 million to members of the relevant congressional committees since 2007. By contrast, almost two-thirds of revolvers made contributions to committee members. Another notable difference – prior to 2014 non-revolvers gave considerably more of their money to Democrats, while revolvers gave equally to both major parties, even slightly favoring Republicans.
See more data on the healthcare debate here.
Dan Auble provided the data for this story, Sara Swann and Ashley Balcerzak contributed reporting.