One of the top perks of running a trade association is having the groups political action committee at the ready. Even so, some of the top dogs at the major health care lobbying organizations have cut a handful of personal checks, according to just-filed semiannual LD-203 reports. Not surprisingly, the recipients of those donations are some of the Members in charge of crafting health care reform legislation.
Karen Ignagni, president of Americas Health Insurance Plans, reported donating just less than $7,000 for the first half of 2009. Her recipients included Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who has served as the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committees point man in Chairman Edward Kennedys (D-Mass.) absence. She also cut a $1,000 check to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and HELP member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). Senate Finance member Tom Carper (D-Del.) collected $620, the filing shows.
Chip Kahn, who runs the Federation of American Hospitals, reported donating $5,000 in campaign contributions to a bipartisan collection of Senators, including Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and HELP members Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
Former Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.), who runs the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, gave out just one dose: a $500 donation to Ways and Means member Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.). The lobbying report says the money came from the Billy Tauzin Congressional Committee.
The filings also show health insurer Cigna gave $250,000 to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation in honor of Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), a member of the foundations board of directors. Partners HealthCare donated $200,000 to the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.
Meanwhile, the American Medical Association, another key stakeholder in the health care debate, reported spending $195,965.21 to honor Edward Kennedy and Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.), among others, as part of the groups Dr. Nathan Davis Awards for Outstanding Government Service.
And the Biotechnology Industry Organization reported spending more than $70,000 in honorary expenses, benefiting such Members and staffers as Kennedy, Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) and Senate Finance Committee Staff Director Russ Sullivan.
Done Deal? Three financial services industry sources say a deal is nearly done to bring on former Rep. Ken Bentsen (D-Texas) to run the Washington, D.C., operation of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association. Bentsen, currently president of the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association, could not be reached for comment.
A spokesman for SIFMA said the group does not comment on personnel matters. Bentsen would replace Michael Pease, who left earlier this year for Goldman Sachs.
Kevin Fromer, a top legislative affairs aide at the Treasury Department during the Bush administration, reportedly turned down the position.
The sources said the speculation is that Bentsen would be the eventual replacement for SIFMA CEO Tim Ryan.
Citizens Against Health Care. Citizens Against Government Waste has made its name singling out lawmakers pet projects and pork-barrel waste.