The health care debate: picture it here

BlogHer Original Post

I've blogged about some useful online tools you can use to follow the health care debate--where to find the text at OpenCongress.org, how to follow the money and the lobbyist players, and how to check out where the parties are. But sometimes a picture is worth the proverbial 1,000 words. Maybe even 1,000,000 words.

Over at the Sunlight Foundation, Paul Blumenthal and Kerry Mitchell have created visualizations that demonstrate the spider web-like ties among health care lobbyists (many of them former staffers for key lawmakers), campaign contributors, and members of Congress. 

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is a powerful player in the health care debate. Five of his former staffers work for 27 organizations that have a stake in health care policy, including the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Researchers of America (PhRMA), America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), Amgen, and GE Health Care. He's also collected millions of dollars in campaign contributions from health care interests. But enough with all the words, take a look at this picture. (Click here to see the full image.)

Of course other members of the Senate Finance Committee are also influential in the health care debate. All together, some 20 former staffers who worked for committee Democrats now represent major health care interests.  These include the American Medical Association, the American Hospital
Association, PhRMA, and various pharmaceutical, medical device and
insurance companies. Here's an interactive display of these relationships.

Democrats don't have the market cornered when it comes to cozy ties with health care lobbyists. Turning to the GOP members of the Senate Finance Committee, Sunlight found 22 staffers-turned-lobbyists. Their clients include Eli Lilly, Pfizer, PhRMA, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Merck.

Republican Senate Finance Committee Health Care Influence Cluster

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