Windfall as Washington Lobbyists
Obamacare has become big business for an elite network of Washington lobbyists and consultants who helped shape the law from the inside.
More than 30 former administration officials, lawmakers and congressional staffers who worked on the healthcare law have set up shop on K Street since 2010.
Major lobbying firms such as Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock, The Glover Park Group, Alston & Bird, BGR Group and Akin Gump can all boast an Obamacare insider on their lobbying roster -- putting them in a prime position to land coveted clients.
"When [Vice President] Biden leaned over [during healthcare signing] and said to [President] Obama, 'This is a big f'n deal,'" said Ivan Adler, a headhunter at the McCormick Group, "he was right."
Veterans of the healthcare push are now lobbying for corporate giants such as Delta Airlines, UPS, BP America and Coca-Cola, and for healthcare companies including GlaxoSmithKline, UnitedHealth Group and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
Ultimately, the clients are after one thing: expert help in dealing with the most sweeping overhaul of the country's healthcare system in decades.
"Healthcare lobbying on K Street is as strong as it ever was, and it's due to the fact that the Affordable Care Act seems to be ever-changing," Adler said. "What's at stake is huge...Whenever there's a lot of money at stake, there's a lot of lobbying going on."
The voracious need for lobbying help in dealing with Obamacare has created a price premium for lobbyists who had first-hand experience in crafting or debating the law.
Experts say that those able to fetch the highest salaries have come from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or committees with oversight power over healthcare.
Demand for Obamacare insiders is even higher now that major pieces of the law -- including the healthcare exchanges and individual insurance mandate -- are being set up through a slew of complicated federal regulations.
"Congress is easy to watch," said Tim LaPira, a politics professor at James Madison University who researches the government affairs industry, "but agencies are harder to watch because their actions are often opaque. This leads to a greater demand on K Street" for people who understand the fine print, he said.
"K Street's agenda follows the government's agenda. It's not typically the other way around," he said.
Watchdogs say the rise of the Obamacare lobbyist is another example of the "revolving door" that turns public service into private enrichment.
"After passage of major legislation, those who have networks on Capitol Hill take exceedingly lucrative jobs with the same industries subject to the legislation," said Craig Holman, a lobbyist for Public Citizen. "It raises questions about the [bill's] integrity."
For K Street, healthcare lobbying has been a bright spot in what has otherwise been a down business cycle.
While lobbying revenue at major firms has been flat or declining in recent years, the healthcare law has generated steady work -- a trend that is likely to continue for years to come.
That's because Obamacare runs on a long timeline, well into the next administration. Unless the law is severely crippled, the reform's rules and requirements will be rolling out through at least 2020.
That's good news for lobbyists who want to sign up clients for the long haul.
READ FULL SOURCE ARTICLE: 08/26/2013
Editor's Note: Not all lobbying is bad, mind you, but when a law creates a new breed of former-legislative and administrative crony lobbyists, well, the public is getting screwed...
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