Swarm? Was ‘Petition Government’ Too Long for Headlines?

By February 25, 2010Briefly Legal, Health Care

The Center for Public Integrity, one of the hordes of goo-goo groups that pullulate across Washington, posted an article at its website, “Lobbyists Swarm Capitol To Influence Health Reform.” Well, it’s a nice change of pace from “Descend upon Capitol,” but the authors still managed to load up on phrases like, “a boom year for influence peddling.”

Eliminate the usual rhetoric and you get a good cross-section of the various public and shareholder interests that are using their First Amendment rights to influence the Congressional health care debate. The NAM is mentioned.

Kelly Johnston, vice president for government affairs at Campbell Soup, said the company channeled its lobbying efforts through groups like the American Benefits Council and the National Association of Manufacturers. The public insurance option was Campbell Soup’s biggest target. Johnson said the company feared a public plan would lure small and medium sized businesses to dump their private insurance plans, resulting in higher rates for larger companies.

“We want to create more incentive, not less incentive, for smaller businesses to get into private insurance,” he said.

Darn right. It’s an excellent argument about health care costs and access, and the NAM is proud to represent that point of view.

The activists who are offended by the exercise of constitutional rights usually concentrate their bemoaning on business, but we give the Center for Public Integrity credit. Its authors also addressed organized labor’s lobbying, which makes sense, given that the unions have influenced the White House’s health care plan more than has business.

Missing, however, is any mention of the trial lawyer lobby, the American Association for Justice and their various allies, associates and funding recipients. The AAJ’s fourth quarter 2009 lobbying report lists 10 lobbyists, including former congressional staffers, who worked on health care-related issues. The AAJ reported spending $4.6 million total on lobbying in 2009, and has celebrated its ability to block medical liability reform. If you’re going to be serious about examining lobbying activities on health care, you can’t ignore the trial lawyers.

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