The watchdog organizations examined campaign contributions between the start of the 2008 election cycle in January 2007 and the end of the second quarter of 2009. They identified outside lobbyists who had donated to the same members of Congress as their clients, and identified lawmakers who had received money from at least 10 of these hired, outside lobbyists.
Baucus, for example, collected contributions from 37 outside lobbyists representing PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry's chief trade association, and 36 lobbyists who listed drug maker Amgen Inc. as their client.
In all, 11 major health industry and health insurance firms had their contributions to Baucus and his leadership PAC boosted through extra donations from 10 or more of their outside lobbyists. These 11 organizations donated $252,750 to Baucus through their employees or PACs. And 109 lobbyists representing these groups donated an additional $201,000 during the two-and-a-half-year period studied.
Nor was Baucus alone — other members also received similarly large “clusters” of contributions from the employees, their family members and political action committees of health care firms and from the outside lobbyists that represented them.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), actually led the list, receiving $900,930 from 22 organizations and their 184 external lobbyists — though much of that money was directed at his presidential campaign last year.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also ranked ahead of Baucus. McConnell received about $513,800 from 14 major healthcare organizations and their 127 outside lobbyists.
Four other Democratic senators on the Finance committee also received such contributions. These are Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).
Combined, they received roughly one-sixth of Baucus' haul. These Democrats received an average of about $19,800 in contributions per person from these clients and their external lobbyists during the two-and-a-half year period studied.
On the other side of the aisle, 60 percent of the Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee were found to have accepted campaign contributions from these major health-related organizations plus 10 or more of their outside lobbyists.
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) received the most in such contributions, with $130,620 from these lobbyists and their clients, followed by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who received $78,450.
Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) round out the list of GOP recipients.
These Republican lawmakers received an average of $67,700 per person from these clients and their external lobbyists during the two-and-a-half year period studied.
Overall, the investigation found that since January 2007, more than 500 individual lobbyists who fit these criteria donated roughly $2.8 million to 61 members of Congress who also received about $1.9 million from the clients' PACs or employees. These lobbyists represented 25 major health care and health insurance organizations, and many lobbyists represented multiple clients. Companies with fewer than 10 lobbyists that fit these criteria were not included in this initial study.
No evidence was found that the extra giving by lobbyists was part of a planned effort by the health care firms to solidify their standing among members of Congress. The investigation does, though, strongly suggests that special interest giving is enhanced by the K Street contributors they hire, and it illustrates the intensity of the full-court press that the industry is currently waging on Capitol Hill.
So whenever you read about the big spending by PhRMA or Amgen or Blue Cross, remember: That’s probably just the beginning.