The industry bill Democrats presented to the American people at 1 A.M. makes perfect sense, and should not surprise anyone. The Senate bill reflects a simple and time-honored way of doing business in Washington, one hand washes the other.
But as I often say, no need to believe me, just read this report from the Medill News Service and the Center for Responsive Politics.
Congressional staffers go from their stints working on Capitol Hill to lucrative lobbying jobs. Legislation favorable to industry is the goal, since a lucrative post-Congressional staffer lobbying job depends on doing the bidding of your future employer.
Let’s return to The Medill News Service and its just released a report which everyone must read, particularly now, in light of what we witnessed last night. The database of collusion between the healthcare industry and those responsible for this dangerous legislation, (annexed to the report), is a damning indictments of our political system. It explains perfectly why, this morning, we are dealing with such an atrocious outcome.
An analysis of public documents by Northwestern University’s Medill News Service in partnership with the Tribune Newspapers Washington Bureau and the Center for Responsive Politics found a revolving door between Capitol Hill staffers and lobbying jobs for companies with a stake in health care legislation.
At least 166 former aides from the nine congressional leadership offices and five committees involved in shaping health overhaul legislation — along with at least 13 former lawmakers — registered to represent at least 338 health care clients since the beginning of last year, according to the analysis.
Their health care clients spent $635 million on lobbying over the past two years, the study shows.
The total of insider lobbyists jumps to 278 when non-health-care firms that reported lobbying on health issues are added in, the analysis found.
Part of the lobbying pressure on current members of Congress and staffers comes from the powerful lure of post-congressional job possibilities.
"There’s always a worry they may be thinking about their future employment opportunities when dealing with these issues, particularly with health care, because the stakes are so high and the breadth of the issues — pharmacies, hospitals, doctors," said Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz.
Lobbyists’ earnings can dwarf congressional salaries, which currently top out at $174,000 annually for lawmakers and $156,000 for aides, though committee staff members can earn slightly more.
When I first walked into the Rayburn House office building with Jane Hamsher many long months ago, I had an immediate reaction–a blink, if you will. The lobby and cafeteria of this edifice to our democracy,reminded me of a middle-eastern bazaar. A sea of eager buyers and sellers. The political class–selling access in return for campaign contributions. The lobbyists–there to earn their oversized salaries and cut deals for their well-heeled clients. Last night was the culmination of this political reality.
Before I left Washington, over a rare long lunch, Jane explained to naive me how things work on Capitol Hill. As usual, she was frighteningly prescient. She said that whenever important legislation is being teed up, the lobbyists get in on the act very early. They do this to get a huge head start in manipulating the legislative process to favor their clients. The outcome we witnessed last night was almost predictable given how corrupt and dysfunctional our government has become.
The American people and our needs, get barely a second thought, Jane said. Then she sketched a diagram on a tiny paper napkin, to show me how rigged the process has become. The lobbyists circling their prey like hungry sharks, are able to manipulate the legislative levers early and often, to insure the outcome be exactly what they’ve paid for. Jane told me Progressives had learned a lot over the years. On the healthcare battle (which would be the mother of all fights, like nothing we’d ever seen), we’d be in early, and fight just like them. This is exactly what we’ve done, focusing our efforts on House Progressives where we can, and will make a huge difference in the House Senate Conference. We did all this with small contributions from you, not the tens and hundreds of millions the insurance corporations have spent to buy Democrats in the United States Senate into doing their bidding.
And make no mistake, the fight is far, far from over. Get ready for the mother of all battles.