HEALTH AND WEALTH:
As the White House begins a push for healthcare reform, it starts at a significant disadvantage, perhaps as large as $1.38 billion. According to the
Center for Responsive Politics
, a nonpartisan group that tracks campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures, that’s the sum that five industries–pharmaceuticals/ health products, insurance, health services/HMOs, hospitals/nursing homes and health professionals–spent lobbying lawmakers from 2007, the first full year Democrats controlled Congress, to the most recent first-quarter filings for 2009.
In fact, starting in 2006 healthcare interests have spent even more than the financial services industry to sway lawmakers. Since 1998, three of the top ten lobbying spenders have sought to influence healthcare policy; the American Medical Association’s $204 million in the past decade was second only to the perennial top lobbyist, the US Chamber of Commerce. Beyond lobbying, hundreds of millions have been spent by healthcare interests in campaign contributions in the past two election cycles alone.
So what does all this money buy? According to
, renowned number-cruncher and blogger at
, a whole lot. Silver crafted a method to measure how lobbying might be shaping Democratic senators’ votes on a healthcare bill with a public option–which 76 percent of Americans support, according to a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll–and concluded that the low sum of $60,000 in campaign contributions over the past six years would cut in half the odds of a centrist Democrat supporting the plan. SEBASTIAN JONES
never figured out how to pull a punch. In eight years as president of the
National Organization for Women
(NOW), Gandy staked out positions that defined American feminism as forceful and unlimited in its reach. After the slaying of
, the Kansas physician whose work made real the promise of reproductive rights, Gandy declared, “Bringing the killers to justice is not enough–the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security must root out and prosecute as domestic terrorists and violent racketeers the criminal enterprise that has organized and funded criminal acts for decades.” NOW badges shouted, Murder Is Not Pro-Life.
When Barack Obama’s Justice Department filed a brief describing the Defense of Marriage Act as “a cautious policy of federal neutrality,” Gandy shot back, “Neutrality is not what DOMA is about. This law flat- out favors one form of legal marriage over another. The Obama administration has no business treating a discriminatory law as neutral and should instead be working with Congress to develop legislation repealing this harmful law. The Bush years are over– we expect much better from our new president.”
It was during those years that Gandy led NOW as an opposition force on virtually every issue. In her view, there were no limits on “women’s issues.” NOW’s logo was temporarily updated to insert a peace symbol in the “O.” Economic justice, media reform, immigration and healthcare moved to the top of NOW’s agenda–alongside commitments to equality, diversity and abortion rights. Gandy’s successor, former NOW vice president
(backed by former NOW president
), won a spirited contest with current NOW veep
(backed by Gandy) with promises to make the organization even more activist and progressive–an exciting prospect, as Gandy was no slouch on those fronts. JOHN NICHOLS