Major Players Increase Their Spending in Lobbying Fight Over Health Care

Mon Jul 20:  By Bennett Roth and Alex Knott, CQ Staff

As the health care debate intensifies, the nation’s leading advocacy group for older Americans is ramping up its lobbying efforts, spending nearly a third more in the second quarter of this year than it did in the first quarter.

“There is no doubt that health care has been the big thing for us this year,” said Jim Dau, a spokesman for AARP. The organization has focused its efforts not just on the debate in Washington … but also on lawmakers’ districts around the country, he said.

AARP spent $5.3 million from April 1 through June 30, an increase of $1.2 million over its first-quarter spending of $4 million, according to a CQ MoneyLine analysis of second-quarter lobbying disclosure reports filed Monday with the Senate Office of Public Records.

The filings illustrate how many groups — including senior advocacy groups and industry and labor organizations — have boosted spending on lobbying as Congress barrels toward a decision on overhauling health care.

AARP has been a highly visible participant in the contentious debate. Last week, it issued a news release praising the health care plan developed by three House committees that would provide near-universal health insurance but also cost at least $1 trillion. It has also backed a plan by the drug companies to reduce drug costs by $80 billion over the next decade.

In its 52-page lobbying report for the second quarter, AARP lists a number of health care activities, including having “discussed health care reform and issues around public option.” However, Dau said the organization has not taken an official position on any government-run insurance plan, a major point of criticism of some Republicans.

With 40 million members and a lobbying team of more than 50 people, AARP is one of the more influential players in Washington. Although the organization has increased its lobbying spending in the first six months of this year, it spent more in past years: In the third quarter of 2008, for example, AARP reported spending $7.3 million.

Second-quarter lobbying reports were due at midnight, and as of early Monday evening, a number of companies and organizations had not filed their reports.

But of those that had filed, many — though not all — showed an uptick in spending.

Lobbying Expenditures Rise for Businesses The Business Roundtable, an association of chief executives of large companies, reported second-quarter lobbying expenses of $6.1 million, a $4.9 million increase from the first quarter. The association has called for a combination of private market and government reforms in health care.

As with that of most companies and organizations, the Business Roundtable‘s agenda covers a host of issues; its disclosure forms include legislation on taxes, energy, trade, labor and appropriations, along with health care, as the subjects of its lobbying.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., a discount chain that has also been active in the health care debate, increased its spending on lobbying to $2.58 million in the second quarter from $1.52 million in the first quarter. Wal-Mart recently broke with many other businesses by endorsing a measure that would require employers to contribute to the cost of employees’ health insurance.

However, although it adamantly opposes the Democratic House and Senate health care bills now being considered, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce scaled back its lobbying expenditures — from $9.9 million in the first quarter to $7.4 million in the second quarter.

Other organizations with an interest in health care that reduced lobbying spending from the first quarter to the second quarter include America’s Health Insurance Plans, from $2 million to $1.8 million, and the American Medical Association, from $4.24 million to $3.98 million. The AMA recently endorsed the House health care plan.

Several large pharmaceutical companies slightly upped their lobbying efforts. GlaxoSmithKline spent $2.2 million in the second quarter, up from $1.78 million. Eli Lilly spent $3.5 million on second-quarter lobbying, a jump of $150,000. Johnson & Johnson spent $1.55 million in the second quarter, compared with $1.53 million in the first quarter. Merck & Co. spent $1.53 million from April through June, compared with $1.5 million during the first three months.

Bristol-Myers Squibb, however, spent slightly less, dropping from $814,617 in the first quarter to $809,000 in the second quarter.

Several professional organizations with a stake in the outcome of health care legislation also increased their activity.

The American Beverage Association, which has been fighting proposals to tax sodas to pay for health care, spent $1.2 million on lobbying in the second quarter, up from $140,000 in the first quarter.

The National Association of Children’s Hospitals increased its lobbying tab to $640,000 from $530,000. The American College of Radiology Association spent $1.1 million on lobbying in the second quarter, a slight increase from $923,080.

But the American Dental Association spent $680,000 in the second quarter, a decrease from $830,000, and the American Academy of Family Physicians spent $670,670 in the second quarter, compared with $779,764 in the first three months of the year.

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