Health care special-interest groups may not have a direct seat at the table at Thursday's bipartisan health care reform summit, but they will hardly be unrepresented. A government watchdog organization points out that since 2005, health care interests have contributed nearly $28 million in campaign donations to the 21 members of the House and Senate invited to attend, and the summit's host, President Obama, received over $18.6 million from them during the 2008 campaign.
According to the study by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), these special interest contributors include health professionals and their trade associations, the employees and political action committees of hospitals and nursing homes, pharmaceutical companies, HMOs, health insurance companies and health services firms.
- Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee (with jurisdiction over the major health insurance programs), received 2.5 million in contributions since 2005, topping the list of invitees who received the most health care dollars.
- Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) received over 2.2 million in special interest contributions, most of which came from doctors, medical professionals and their trade associations.
- Reps. Eric Cantor (R-VA), Charles Rangel (D-NY) and Steny Hoyer (D-MD) received the third, fourth and fifth highest amounts of money from the health care industry, each collecting just under $2 million in campaign contributions since 2005.
- The most contributions came from doctors and other health professionals, who have collectively donated at least $22 million to health summit participants, including Obama.
- The pharmaceutical and health products industry has contributed at least $9.7 million to the campaigns of these legislators.
- HMOs and health and accident insurers have contributed at least $6.3 million.
"The health care industry has paid millions to ensure its views are represented at tomorrow's health care summit," said Melanie Sloan, CREW's executive director. "The question is, who will be there representing the rest of us?"