Tales from the Trail

Who wins on U.S. healthcare reform? Washington’s lobbyists, for starters


While pundits try to figure out whether Republicans or Democrats will benefit most from healthcare reform come November’s congressional elections, what seems mighty clear already is that Washington’s lobbyists are undisputed winners in the epic debate.

The watchdog Center for Public Integrity says lobbyists were paid at least $1.2 billion to work on health issues including healthcare reform in 2009. That giant chunk of change sent an army of more than 4,500 lobbyists scrambling up the slopes of Capitol Hill toward the ramparts of the House and Senate, where 535 elected public officials either braced for the onslaught or hurried out the welcome mat.

It’s possible that a filibuster-proof majority busied themselves with the latter. Lawmakers were, after all, outnumbered by more than 8 to 1.

Exact dimensions of the money trail are problematic. The tangled world of politics and money comes with plenty of caveats. For example, the Center’s analysis can’t say how much money was spent specifically on healthcare reform, because disclosure rules don’t require that degree of detail. Another thing: the numbers show activity in 2009 only, and don’t reflect the magnificent political gyrations that occurred this year, both before and after Republican Scott Brown became a U.S. senator from Massachusetts. More up-to-date lobbying stats, covering 2010′s first quarter, are due out in a few weeks.DOLLAR/

“The precise amount that went to health reform remains unknown. But if only 10 percent of that lobby spending went toward health reform, the amount would total $120 million – and that’s likely a record for a single year’s spending on a particular issue,” the Center points out.

Democracy at work: $5.3 billion or priceless?

WASHINGTON – Outfitting a vice presidential candidate: more than $150,000. Contributions raised by all candidates for the Senate and House of Representatives: over $1.5 billion. Presidential election cost: almost $2.4 billion. Democracy at work: priceless.

The Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan watchdog group, issued an estimate on Thursday that said the U.S. election would cost $5.3 billion, the first time to cross the $5 billion threshold.

By the time Nov. 4 rolls around, Democrats will have seen donations soar 52 percent over their efforts in the 2004 congressional and presidential election, the Center forecast.  In contrast, Republicans, saddled in part by the unpopular President George W. Bush, will see their donations inch up 2 percent since four years ago, it predicted.