As the dust settles on the great healthcare reform debate, a new analysis shows that the clear winners are the armies of healthcare lobbyists from all sides of the debate who led a stampede on the Capitol and raked in record amounts of cash in 2009 to influence the legislation.
The analysis by the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity, Washington Lobbying Giants Cash in on Health Reform Debate, estimates that about 1,750 businesses and organizations hired about 4,525 lobbyists—eight lobbyists for each member of Congress—and spent at least $1.2 billion to influence healthcare bills and other issues, according to a CPI analysis of disclosure documents that included "health reform" or similar wording.
CPI Executive Director Bill Buzenberg says $1.2 billion is a lot of money, but he's not surprised.
"If you will recall, 2009 was a recession year, but it was a banner year for lobbyists. The healthcare debate has gone on so long and it has been so complicated and there is so much at stake so it's not surprising that this much money and these numbers of lobbyists were involved," Buzenberg says. "It's like a very long and messy lawsuit is beneficial to the lawyers. The long, contentious, high-stakes healthcare reform bill was very beneficial to the lobbyists."
The exact dollar amount spent on healthcare reform is a bit fuzzy because lobbyists are not required to itemize how much money in a given contract is devoted to a specific area. However, CPI said that if only 10% of that spending went toward health reform, the amount would total $120 million—likely a record for a single year's spending on a particular issue.
"This is what is hard. This is what they spent on lobbying in 2009, and these were the companies that were involved in healthcare," Buzenberg says. "But we can't say that it was all directed to healthcare. I think when we use the 10% figure that is pretty conservative, and we believe it was higher than that."
In fact, Buzenberg says, the total amount spent attempting to influence the healthcare reforms could be considerably higher, because the CPI study does not include lobbying expenses in the first quarter of 2010, nor does it include outside expenditures for advertising and other public influence campaigns.