Another Report on ‘Health Care Interests’ That Omits Lawyers

By February 25, 2010Briefly Legal

In a post this morning, we noted the failure of the Center for Public Integrity to include trial lawyers in its list of interests lobbying on health care issues. If you’re going to be querulous about groups exercising their First Amendment rights to influence health care legislation, you have to wring your hands about the American Association of Justice (AAJ) and its allies, too.

Not just lobbying, but campaign contributions also provoked fretting today in the goo-goo-sphere. The National Journal picked up a news release from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW) in Washington that tallied up the campaign contributions that went to the attendees of the President’s Blair House health care meeting. From “CREW’s study of health care contributions to summit participants“:

A review of campaign finance records shows the health care establishment has invested heavily in the campaigns of the members of Congress invited to the meeting. In total, these 21
lawmakers have taken nearly $28 million in campaign donations from health care interests since
2005. These donations include contributions from health professionals (including physicians,
pharmacists, nurses, and others providing health care services) and their trade associations, as
well as the employees and political action committees (PACs) of hospitals and nursing homes;
pharmaceutical and health product companies; health services firms; HMOs; health and accident
insurers; and miscellaneous health care interests (such as research groups).

“Invested heavily in” is the sneering way of saying, “contributed to.” Shocking in a representative democracy, we know.

Strangely, CREW omits from its list contributions made by trial lawyers and labor unions. (At least the Center for Public Integrity included the unions.) Are the trial lawyers NOT a health care interest?

Well, of course they are, and they prominently contribute to campaigns, too. The Manhattan Institute’s latest edition in its “Trial Lawyers, Inc.” series reports, “In the last decade, lawyers and law firms—excluding lobbyists—have injected $780 million into federal campaigns, on top of $725 million donated to state races.”
Legal Newline, a legal reform-oriented publication backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, today reported on the litigation industry’s campaign contributions to Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), “Durbin gets big bucks from trial lawyers.” At today’s health care meeting, the Senator argued impassionedly for the necessity of lawsuits in achieving recompense for injured patients. Sen. Durbin’s argument is an important point of view, and it absolutely deserved to be heard at today’s health care event.

But to omit trial lawyers and their campaign contributions from any accounting of health care interests is ridiculous on its face. CREW’s political selectiveness belies its claim to the moral high ground on “responsibility and ethics” in Washington. Or anywhere else.

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