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09.09.09

Health Care's Cash Cows

As Congress gets down to business, the special-interest money is pouring in. Benjamin Sarlin studies the big players on Capitol Hill, and how many millions they’ve received.

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(Note: All contribution data courtesy of Center for Responsive Politics unless otherwise stated)

As President Barack Obama steps to the podium tonight in a bid to build fresh momentum for health-care reform, the pressure is building on Capitol Hill. The Senate Finance Committee is ground zero. There’s agreement on the broad legislative outlines—requiring people to buy coverage, creating an insurance exchange, and allowing people with pre-existing conditions to plug into the plan of their choosing. But the flashpoint is the public option—and that’s what’s driving the donations from health-care companies and insurers alike, who are battling to keep it out of the bill.

Health-care companies like biotech giant Amgen and Schering-Plough have helped fuel an industry-wide investment of $19.7 million in all federal lawmakers thus far this year; some 40 percent of that money has gone to members of Senate Finance and other committees working on health-care bills. (That’s in addition to the $280 million the health-care industry has spent in the first six months of 2009 on lobbying). Meanwhile, the insurance industry, spurred by big donations from companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield and Aetna, have kicked in an additional $6.3 million in donations to members of Congress for the 2010 cycle. The Daily Beast looks at where key Senate Finance members and a few of their pivotal colleagues stand in the debate—and whose writing the checks that might shape their view.

Benjamin Sarlin is a reporter for The Daily Beast. He previously covered New York City politics for The New York Sun and has worked for talkingpointsmemo.com.