01/18/2011 12:29 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

I'm Not Entirely Sure Politico Understands How Lobbying Works

If you're like me, you probably stumbled across this headline on Politico -- "Health care lobby mum on repeal" -- and thought, "Whoa, now. That can't be right!" But apparently, the "health care industry's biggest trade groups" are "uncharacteristically neutral on the Republican effort to repeal the health care reform law"! And even though the industry trade group America's Health Insurance Plans is said to have "lobbied against much of the health care overhaul when it was passed in Congress," they are not supporting the GOP's repeal pageant, preferring instead to get into the business of nipping and tweaking the law.

Now, that is going to be something of a cash bonanza on K Street, which you can read more about in this morning's The Hill, where Kevin Bogardus finds lobbying firms staffing up in expectation of the coming cash orgy that's expected to "continue to boost K Street's revenue for years" and already has one recruiter joking about how the health care reform bill should be renamed "the Regulatory Lawyer Employment Act of 2011."

But "neutral?" Surely we are straining the definition of that word! For instance, Politico reports that "two groups have openly supported the repeal" of the health care law, one of them being the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Now, you don't suppose that within about a minute of using Google, I'm going to find out that AHIP made some massive contribution to the Chamber, do you?

In 2009, a single $86.2 million contribution from the health insurance industry's largest trade association, AHIP, accounted for almost half of the Chamber of Commerce's total contributions. Much of that money was dedicated to the Chamber's then-escalating campaign against the health care reform bill -- a campaign the Chamber characterized as an advocacy effort on behalf of the broader business community.

Maybe the Chamber is just safeguarding AHIP's money, like Switzerland, though? Well, there's also the minor detail of AHIP's donations in 2010 being "tilted heavily to Republicans in the 2010 election cycle, with 59 percent of its $201,000 in direct PAC contributions going to GOP congressional candidates and 40 percent to Democrats, according to a Center for Responsive Politics analysis of Federal Election Commission records, as of Dec. 8."

At any rate, I guess this piece hangs pretty heavily on the most generous possible definitions for "neutral" and "mum," but for the benefit of helping everyone figure out how "lobbying" works, let's recall that industries typically make their policy preferences known by "giving millions of dollars to lawmakers in exchange for doing what they want."

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