On which side of 'reform' is health industry money? 

I'm a big fan of the Center for Responsive Politics and their website, OpenSecrets.org. It's the most comprehensive source for campaign cash and lobbying information, and I find myself constantly citing it. But once in a while, in their special analyses, I think they ask the wrong question. Today, there is a prime example of this on their site.

First, on health-care reform, OpenSecrets carries the headline, "Opponents of House Health Reform Bill Received 15 Percent More in Health Industry Contributions Than Supporters." This nicely fits the Obama narrative that well-funded special interests are trying to undermine "reform." But look at what numbers CRP crunched: "opponents of the measure have received an average of 15 percent more from health industry and health insurance interests over the past 20 years, a Center for Responsive Politics analysis has found." [emphasis added]

Looking at the money over the past 20 years biases the numbers towards Republicans in two ways: (1) Republicans were the majority in the House for 12 of those 20 years, which should give the GOP a natural 50 percent cash advantage; (2) with all the Democratic gains in 2006 and 2008 there are many more freshmen and sophomore Democrats than there are Republicans. Also, it's hard to see the relevance of a 1990 campaign contribution to a 2009 debate.

Here's another way to look it: how did "reform" opponents do compared to supporters in the last election, raising funds from the health sector? I don't have the resources right now to crunch more recent numbers, but here's a good sample: the top recipients of health sector cash.

OpenSecrets lists the top 20 House candidates on 2008 health cash. Two of these candidates lost, so we really have a group you could call the health sector's 18 favorite House members. Well, 10 of them voted YEA on reform, and 8 voted NAY. In this 2008 top tier, the average haul of a "pro-reform" member was $516,774, while the "anti-reform" folks pulled an average $502,038. That 3% advantage for the YEAs, however, jumps to a 15% advantage when you take Ron Paul, the only presidential candidate on that list, out of the math.

Check the early figures for 2010 and you see similar numbers. Thirteen of the top 20 health-sector recipients are YEA votes. The average take of a top-tier "reformer" so far is $199,313, compared to the opponents who hauled an average $172,966 -- a 15% edge for the YEAs.

Another detail worth noting: The seven NAY votes in the top tier include three doctors: Reps. Phil Gingrey, Tom Price, and Michael Burgess.

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Timothy P. Carney

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