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Crapo’s Daughter Lobbies Health Issues

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Sen. Mike Crapo has supported requests for federal earmarks from some health care facilities that have hired the lobbying firm that employs Crapo’s daughter.

Sen. Mike Crapo’s daughter represents numerous health-care-related interests, including several medical facilities in their home state that the Idaho Republican has sought earmarks for in recent years, according to federal lobbying disclosure records.

But Paul Lee, a former Senate aide and founder of the firm Strategic Health Care, where Lara Crapo serves as government relations director, said the office maintains a strict separation between Crapo and her father’s office.

“We’ve had it in place from the very beginning,” said Lee, who founded the firm in 1994 and was an aide to  former Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.). “She has never taken a client on any kind of official business to the Crapo office, period.”

Lee said Lara Crapo, in accordance with Senate rules, is prohibited from “having any communication with the Crapo office, anything related to any client anywhere, not just in Idaho.”

A Crapo spokesman said Friday he was not aware Lara Crapo lobbied on behalf of either Bingham Memorial Hospital or Gritman Medical Center, two of the facilities that got earmarks.

According to the Senate’s Code of Official Conduct, if a Senator’s spouse or other immediate family member is a registered lobbyist, or employed by a registered lobbyist, the lawmaker and his aides are prohibited from any interaction “with the Member’s spouse or immediate family member that constitutes a lobbying contact.”

Those guidelines resulted from ethics reforms, including increased disclosure and stringent gift rules, enacted in 2007. Lara Crapo is one of the Senator’s five children.

Lara Crapo did not return a telephone message or e-mail last week, but Lee said Friday that another lobbyist, former Senate aide Doyce Boesch, handles “90 percent” of the firm’s interactions with Crapo’s Senate office.

“I err on the side of caution when it comes to registration,” Lee said. He added that Lara Crapo does have periodic contact with Idaho’s House delegation, including accompanying the firm’s clients to Capitol Hill or submitting forms.

“She doesn’t independently go to any office, for that matter, on the Hill to lobby on behalf of client interests,” Lee said. “Most of her responsibilities are internal to our organization.”

According to Crapo’s bio on the firm’s website: “her responsibilities include assisting with all aspects of congressional relations as well as shepherding clients through the congressional funding processes.” Lara Crapo is also a principal in the group’s sister firm, Strategic Government Initiatives Group.

Crapo’s name first appears in lobbying records on an October 2007 report filed by the firm Strategic Health Care as it registered its representation of the Blackfoot, Idaho-based Bingham Memorial Hospital.

That report, filed by Lee, lists Crapo among eight lobbyists to represent the Idaho hospital’s interests in seeking federal appropriations. Crapo continued to be listed for subsequent reports, most recently on a form detailing the firm’s work in the first quarter of 2010.

She is also registered to represent Moscow, Idaho-based Gritman Medical Center.

Strategic Health Care first registered Gritman Medical Center as a client in February 2006, but Crapo does not appear on reports for the center until February 2008, indicating she had lobbied on the center’s behalf in the second half of 2007.

Lara Crapo continued to be listed on reports for the medical center in 2010 and was included in a third-quarter report along with 10 other lobbyists.

Crapo’s name also appears on the July 2008 registration form Strategic Health Care filed to represent Sandpoint, Idaho-based Bonner General Hospital. Her name does not appear on subsequent forms, however, and the firm filed a termination form effective December 2008.

According to lobbying disclosure database operated by the Senate Office of Public Records, which dates to 1999, Strategic Health Care is the only firm to have represented the three Idaho facilities.

Congressional records and press releases archived on Crapo’s Senate website indicate the Idaho lawmaker has sought earmarked funds for both Bingham Memorial Hospital and Gritman Medical Center.

In a July 2006 press release, Crapo’s office states he “shepherded” $100,000 for electronic medical records systems through the fiscal 2007 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill. Those funds were not included in a continuing resolution for that fiscal year.

In October 2007, Crapo issued a statement that he was “pleased to be a champion” for earmarks including $250,000 for the medical center for technology upgrades. The release also quoted then-Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), who served on the Appropriations Committee.

The medical center ultimately received $487,000 in the fiscal 2008 omnibus bill. The accompanying report lists Crapo, Craig and then-Rep. Bill Sali (R-Idaho) as co-sponsors.

The Moscow, Idaho-based center received no earmarks in fiscal 2009, but Crapo and Craig did succeed that year in obtaining $190,000 for Bingham Memorial Hospital for facilities and equipment.

In his fiscal 2010 earmark requests, Crapo sought $2 million for the medical center to renovate a former nursing home into a community wellness center, and ultimately received $200,000 for the project. Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho) also backed the project, Congressional records show. 

Crapo continued to seek $1.8 million for the same project in his fiscal 2011 earmark requests, although the project did not appear in a version of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education bill approved in July.

Crapo also sought $1.8 million to expanding Bingham Memorial Hospital’s “women and child services” in fiscal 2010, ultimately securing $200,000 for the project. Congressional records indicate Risch also supported the project.

He continued to seek another $525,000 for the hospital in fiscal 2011 for equipment and facilities.

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