An investigation conducted by the Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Responsive Politics found that networks of lobbyist bundlers are funneling money to key members of Congress, including self-appointed health care reform leader Sen. Max Baucus.
Baucus, chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, collected contributions from 37 bundlers -- outside lobbyists who collect contributions from others and direct money to a particular candidate -- representing Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), and 36 others representing drugmaker Amgen, from January 2007 to July 2009.
All together, Baucus received extra donations from 11 major health and insurance firms through 10 or more outside lobbyists, according to the Sunlight Foundation.
PhRMA and Amegen have most outside lobbyists contributing to lawmakers on their behalf. Roche Holdings, Pfizer Inc. and Blue Cross/Blue Shield follow closely behind, the investigation found.
While it has been widely reported that the health care industry contributes generously to Baucus, the investigation revealed that 32 senators and 22 members of the House received money from 10 or more PhRMA lobbyists whose healthcare or health insurance industry clients also contributed to their campaigns.
The Hill reported last month that while politicians are supposed to report lobbyists who have bundled money for their campaigns to the Federal Election Commission, loopholes in ethics legislation leave much bundling activity unseen.
"This is going to be the dog that never barked," said Paul Ryan, an attorney with the Campaign Legal Center, which advocates for campaign finance reform.
Baucus is currently making last-minute revisions to his committee's health care reform bill in an effort to get more votes, according to the New York Times.