Manu Raju reports in Politico on the “Revolving door for health care aides”:
Some of the most influential aides in the closed-door Senate Finance Committee negotiations over health care reform have ties to interests that would be directly affected by the legislation.
Before she was hired last year as senior counsel to Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Liz Fowler worked as a highly paid public policy adviser for WellPoint Inc., the nation’s largest publicly traded health benefits company.
Mark Hayes, health policy director and chief health counsel for Finance Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), is married to a registered lobbyist for a firm that represents drug companies and hospital groups, although the couple says she doesn’t lobby Grassley’s office.
Frederick Isasi, a health policy adviser to Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), was a registered lobbyist at Powell Goldstein, where his clients included public hospitals and the American Stroke Association.
Kate Spaziani, senior health policy aide to Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), was also a registered lobbyist at Powell Goldstein, although Conrad’s office says she worked as a lawyer — not as a lobbyist — for public hospitals on Medicare issues.
There’s no evidence that the aides’ ties have shaped the bill that Baucus hopes to release Tuesday, and the ultimate decisions over its provisions rest with the senators themselves. But critics say the involvement of such well-connected insiders could lead to dangerous conflicts.
“It raises the concerns about the revolving door that have always been present,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a group that tracks influence in politics. “This just brings it into the fore because it’s such a far-reaching bill.”
The revolving door swings both ways in the health care debate — and the Finance Committee isn’t the only place where it stops.
All across Capitol Hill, a number of former lobbyists, consultants and advisers for firms that represent consumers, patients, hospitals, insurers, pharmaceutical companies and medical device makers are now in key positions in the House and Senate, according to a review of public records.