Editor's Note: Health care reform is big business in Washington and it's made for some strange bedfellows. Groups you'd never expect are teaming up both for and against the bill. In part one of this American Morning original series, Carol Costello keeps tabs on who is "Lobbying for Your Health."
By Bob Ruff and Carol Costello
Imagine that you are playing a word association game and someone says the word "lobbyist." What's the first word that might come to your mind?
The word "crook," as in convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff might be a bit too harsh, but for many people the word they'd choose wouldn't be very flattering. And that's one reason why Congress over the years has passed legislation seeking to shine light on how lobbyists influence congressmen and legislation.
The Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 was followed by the "Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007." These laws attempted to throw light on the federal lobbying process, including the requirement that lobbyists register quarterly with the House and Senate.
All of which brings us to the current health care bills that have attracted Washington lobbyists like moths to a light bulb. How many lobbyists?
The Center for Responsive Politics says 951 firms and organizations registered to lobby just the House version of the bill. The group, which tracks campaign contributions and lobbying dollars, counted more than 3,000 individual lobbyists who have spent at least $400 million dollars lobbying Congress on health care reform.
We looked at the list of 951 and were not surprised by organizations that you would expect to lobby a health bill, such as United Health, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, and the American Hospital Association.
But, we were so curious about why some other very unlikely groups were so interested in health care legislation that we asked some of them.
The Gun Owners of America lobbied to make sure the health bill doesn't "use gun-related health data" to prevent people from owning firearms.
The American Association of Museums lobbied to make sure health care costs wouldn't "jeopardize the charitable gifts" that wealthy Americans donate to museums and other charities.
And then there's the soft drink industry. Their lobbying arm, the American Beverage Association, spent $7 million dollars, much of it on television advertising.
So why would the people who represent Coke and Pepsi and other soft drink companies spend all that money on health care reform?
One word: FEAR, according to Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. He told CNN's Carol Costello that it was all about "defensive lobbying." They were afraid that Congress would try to fund the health bill in part by taxing sugared soft drinks.
But was Congress ever serious about doing this? Jacobson says no. "There never has been and there really isn't a champion now" in the Congress for taxing sugared drinks.
Susan Neely of the American Beverage Association disagrees. "We were counseled by very smart people in Congress that in some quarters this might be a viable idea again because the pressure for funding was so enormous, rightly so, and you couldn't take anything for granted."
Sheila Krumholz of the Center for Responsive Politics says the "beverage industry saw a threat on the horizon [and] realized that they had a short window of opportunity to remove it, and they threw everything they had at it."
And then there's this: fifteen beverage industry lobbyists have made legal campaign contributions over time to 14 members (Democrats and Republicans) on the Senate Finance Committee, the very committee that had the power to kill the idea.
And what happened? The idea of a tax on sugary soda, which consumer groups have been supporting for years, never made it out of the Finance Committee.
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