In early May, a group of 13 Republican senators were chosen for a working group to hammer out the new Senate Healthcare Bill. That draft legislation – available here, in full – came after a similar measure passed in the House, aiming to bring about sweeping changes to America’s health insurance system.

The senators in that group, which includes much of the chamber’s majority leadership, have long been darlings of the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries. The lawmakers received an average $214,000 in campaign contributions from donors in the field, a total more than twice as large as the amount given to their peers outside the group.

And if you’re looking for special interest power in Washington, consider this: while the group of senators worked away in closed-door meetings, senate staffers met with insurance industry lobbyists. In other words, while the industry had the group’s ear, fellow Republicans in the chamber were kept in the dark. One such senator, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, told a reporter: “I am not a reporter, and I am not a lobbyist, so I’ve seen nothing.”

These are two of the largest industries in the country – and the two most likely to be affected by new health insurance legislation. From drug manufacturers to insurance giants the companies in the fields are business – and political – juggernauts.

Let’s look at two of those corporations: the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Association, one of the nation’s largest health insurance networks, and Pfizer, who you might know from your medicine cabinet for Advil, Lyrica or Lipitor.

Blue Cross Blue Shield spent $25 million lobbying the federal government last year – the third-highest total in the country. On the campaign side, the insurer’s PACs, employees and their families made more than $9.3 million in contributions during the 2016 cycle.

(Blue Cross Blue Shield actually issued a press release after the Senate bill’s language came out. It’s…tepid at best.)

Individuals and PACs associated with Pfizer, on the other hand, contributed $2.8 million last cycle and the company paid over $9.7 million to try to influence federal policies in 2016. (To date, Pfizer has not commented on the legislation.)

As we know from the above graphic, the senators working to write the monumental health care law saw higher contribution totals from the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries than their peers outside the group.

But we took a deeper look at companies from each of those sectors – Blue Cross Blue Shield and Pfizer – and found the same contribution gap there, too.

From 2011 to 2016, Blue Cross Blue Shield employees and PACs gave more than $356,000 to the senators working on the health care bill, an average of more than $27,000 per member. It’s a good group to be in – that average is more than triple the average contributed to senators not writing the bill.

That disparity holds for Pfizer, too. The drugmaker’s employees and PAC averaged $17,000 in contributions to members of the Senate group. By comparison, donations to other senators from 2011 to 2016 come out to a little over $5,000 per person.

This isn’t to say that either company strongly backs the measure. What the finding does say, however, is that senators deep in industry money were the ones chosen to write a measure that could substantially affect the industry itself. That’s how special interest politics thrive.

Here’s the amount each company’s PAC and employees contributed to the senators drafting the measure:

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)

Money from insurance & pharmaceuticals: $471,560
Money from Blue Cross/Blue Shield: $68,500 (3rd highest amount to his campaign committee)
Money from Pfizer: $37,800

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

Money from insurance & pharmaceuticals: $433,400
Money from Blue Cross/Blue Shield: $72,050
Money from Pfizer: $23,750

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH)

Money from insurance & pharmaceuticals: $382,100
Money from Blue Cross/Blue Shield: $25,250
Money from Pfizer: $36,150

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA)

Money from insurance & pharmaceuticals: $354,616
Money from Blue Cross/Blue Shield: $42,100
Money from Pfizer: $35,670

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN)

Money from insurance & pharmaceuticals: $228,100
>Money from Blue Cross/Blue Shield: $36,250
Money from Pfizer: $10,000

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)

Money from insurance & pharmaceuticals: $180,050
Money from Blue Cross/Blue Shield: $22,000
Money from Pfizer: $10,500

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO)

Money from insurance & pharmaceuticals: $151,850
Money from Blue Cross/Blue Shield: $0 ($14,100 in combined House and Senate races since 2012 cycle)
Money from Pfizer: $1,000 ($13,000 in combined House and Senate races since 2012 cycle)

Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY)

Money from insurance & pharmaceuticals: $149,750
Money from Blue Cross/Blue Shield: $33,000 (4th highest amount to his campaign committee)
Money from Pfizer: $21,000

Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY)

Money from insurance & pharmaceuticals: $146,600
Money from Blue Cross/Blue Shield: $14,000
Money from Pfizer: $8,500

Sen. John Thune (R-SD)

Money from insurance & pharmaceuticals: $123,400
Money from Blue Cross/Blue Shield: $20,500
Money from Pfizer: $10,000

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)

Money from insurance & pharmaceuticals: $66,750
Money from Blue Cross/Blue Shield: $9,500
Money from Pfizer: $9,000

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

Money from insurance & pharmaceuticals: $58,895
Money from Blue Cross/Blue Shield: $13,678
Money from Pfizer: $18,708

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR)

Money from insurance & pharmaceuticals: $28,941
Money from Blue Cross/Blue Shield: $0 ($11,950 in combined House and Senate races since 2012 cycle)
Money from Pfizer: $0 ($1,000 in combined House and Senate races since 2012 cycle)

 

Methodology: Health insurance and pharmaceutical industry contributions to senators totals were sourced from MapLight analysis of data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, covering the period between November 29, 2010 to November 28, 2016. Contributions from Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Pfizer were calculated based on Center for Responsive Politics data for Senate election cycles from 2011 to 2016, functionally the same period as the industry-wide contributions. Corporate donation totals reflect money given by company PACs and employees or their families, not the companies themselves, and reflect giving to the senators’ campaign committees only. Combined House and Senate contribution totals listed for some senators were not factored into group averages.

About Jack Noland
Jack Noland has written about and reported on money in politics since 2015. He joins Represent.Us after earning a B.A. at George Washington University, where he studied political science and creative writing.
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