Sunday, March 09, 2008

John [Pork-Free] Kline Votes with Money on Mental Health Parity

Do campaign contributions affect how members of Congress vote on legislation ?

According to CongressDaily, NRF Employee Benefits Policy Counsel Vice President Neil Trautwein, who testified before John Kline’s Subcommittee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions opposing the House bill, said active lobbying on the part of his group kept the 268-148 vote well below a veto-proof margin, which was a concern.

Do you think the following groups would support H.R. 1424 Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2007 ?

• Aetna
• American Benefits Council
• Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association
• ERISA Industry Committee
• National Association of Health Underwriters
• National Association of Manufacturers
• National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors
• National Business Group on Health
• National Restaurant Association
• Retail Industry Leaders Association
• Society for Human Rescource Management
• The National Retail Federation [NRF]
• U.S. Chamber of Commerce

These are the groups that voiced opposition to this legislation.

On the flip-side, other groups, such as American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Child Welfare League of America, Mental Health America, etc., were in favor of this legislation.

Dan Newman, of MAPLight.org which looks at correlations between campaign contributions and legislation points out that "Simply put, candidates who take positions contrary to industry interests are unlikely to receive industry funds and thus have fewer resources for their election campaigns than those who vote in favor."

MAPLight reports that groups gave an average of $22,693 to legislators who voted No on this bill, compared to $14,183 to legislators who voted Yes. The disparity is 160% more money given to a No vote.

This begs the question: Are “Earmarks” more of a problem then the influence of lobbyists ?
As previously stated, there are No Earmarks in this legislation.
But the lobbyists influence is still there and without a Veto-proof majority, Kline’s NO VOTE is in sync with big money.
Kline and NRF's Neil Trautwein argued for the Senate version. As it was pointed out during the debate "one thing is clear, the bill is better for patients than the Senate bill, yet the cost is almost exactly the same.
Republican Senator Norm Coleman said that he considers the House bill to be the stronger version between the two chambers.”

Readers may want to monitor the Federal Elections Commission listing of John Kline contributors and MAPlight’s listing of top industries to see how the various interests attempt to influence legislative outcomes.

Kline maybe on a “Pork-free diet”, but he may serve his district better if he just said NO to special interests.

1 comment:

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