Lawmakers Reap Cash From Health-Related Groups

By R. Jeffrey Smith – Washington Post Staff Writer

Sunday, February 6, 2011; 7:06 PM

A two-term Republican from a rural district in Tennessee, Rep. Phil Roe, became a magnet during the last election for more than $90,000 in contributions from medical professionals from across the country, including thousands of dollars from political action committees representing ear and foot doctors in October and November.

The funds weren’t urgent: Roe’s Democratic opponent did not report spending anything, and Roe’s seat has been in the hands of the GOP for more than a century. Roe even sent $4,500 back because he has long refused PAC contributions.

But the congressman, a physician who is now chairman of a House labor and health subcommittee, is considered a kindred soul by the medical industry, partly because he has twice introduced legislation to remove a provision in President Obama‘s health care law that is meant to rein in the growth of Medicare payments.

While it is well-known that health-care and health-insurance providers and companies donated heavily while the bill was being drafted, a new study of campaign spending makes clear that the health-care and health-insurance industries continued to give steadily after its approval, an apparent effort to influence its fate this year.

Roe’s late-arriving contributions were part of a windfall of more than $42.7 million in health-care and health-insurance industry funds that have flowed to current Republican and Democratic lawmakers after each chamber voted on the Obama bill, according to the study of spending for that period.

That investment reflects the conviction of those affected by the bill that the fight over its consequences and key provisions is not over – it is just beginning. The steady spending late last year makes the donors well-positioned now to call on the members they helped reelect to assault or defend elements of the reform that matter to their bottom line.

The study, conducted for The Washington Post by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, also shows that Republicans have been heavily favored in this period. While Democrats got just more than half of the industries’ money before the bill was approved in spite of uniform Republican opposition, the Republican attracted 60 percent after the votes were counted. The Republican total for that period was $25.7 million, while the Democrats was $17 million.

Of the more than 60 bills introduced in the current session on health care and related insurance, most have come from Republican lawmakers; at least 19 of the bills use the term “repeal.”

It demonstrates that the industry “found a better date for the prom,” said Sheila Krumholz, the center’s executive director. “This is the party that showed they were clearly willing to go to bat for the industry’s agenda. . . . I’d say they are going steady now.”

After March 2010, when then-House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) failed to block Obama’s bill, he collected $386,665 from the two industries; as the current House speaker, he is in a powerful position to influence any changes. The new House majority leader, Eric Cantor (R-Va.), a key legislative gatekeeper, did even better, collecting $477,750 in the same period, according to the center’s tally.

On the Senate side, after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) failed to stop the bill in December 2009, he collected $137,500 from the two industries. Of this amount, $95,650 came after Obama signed the bill. All three Republican leaders distributed substantial chunks of the money to other candidates before the election.

Spokesmen for Boehner, Cantor and McConnell declined comment, as did a spokeswoman for Roe.

There has been some Republican disconnect with donors. Although McConnell and Boehner have led efforts to repeal the bill outright, health-insurance companies