Some things still run smoothly in Washington

Such as the revolving door between Congress and corporate lobbyists:

The nation's largest insurers, hospitals and medical groups have hired more than 350 former government staff members and retired members of Congress in hopes of influencing their old bosses and colleagues, according to an analysis of lobbying disclosures and other records. [...]

Nearly half of the insiders previously worked for the key committees and lawmakers, including  Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and  Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), debating whether to adopt a public insurance option opposed by major industry groups. At least 10 others have been members of Congress, such as former House majority leaders Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.) and Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.), both of whom represent a New Jersey pharmaceutical firm.

The hirings are part of a record-breaking influence campaign by the health-care industry, which is spending more than $1.4 million a day on lobbying in the current fight, according to disclosure records. And even in a city where lobbying is a part of life, the scale of the effort has drawn attention. For example, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) doubled its spending to nearly $7 million in the first quarter of 2009, followed by Pfizer, with more than $6 million.

So corporate groups are spending $1.4 million a day on lobbying to block a real public health insurance option, which most Americans want.

That's on top of the millions of dollars the same corporate groups have donated directly to Congressional campaigns. Iowa's Senator Chuck Grassley has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from the industries with the most at stake in health care reform.

Members of Congress claim lobbyists and campaign money don't shape their opinions, but Grassley should know better. He understands that big money from pharmaceutical companies can influence the conclusions of medical researchers--why not elected officials?

Nate Silver has found strong evidence that special-interest money affects Democratic senators' support for the public option in health care reform.

By the way, I wasn't too cheered by Senator Chuck Schumer's promise over the weekend that the health care bill will contain a public option. The current draft in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions excludes lots of people from choosing the public option over their current health insurance. That will limit competition for the private insurers that have near-monopolies in many markets.

Back in 2003 all the Democratic presidential candidates talked a good game on health care. Now Dick "this is a moral issue" Gephardt is lobbying for a pharmaceutical company. I'll stand with Howard Dean and hope that John Edwards was wrong about the system being rigged because corporations have too much power in Washington.

Final note: is organizing health care rallies this Thursday, July 9, at senators' offices in their home states. Sign up here to attend a rally near you.

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Wall Street Watchdog in Jail

(Cross-posted from Think it Through)

When the U.S. Government sent Eugene V. Debs to prison in 1918 for distributing antiwar pamphlets in violation of the Espionage and Sedition Act of 1917, the industrial barons breathed a sigh of relief.  In the first two decades of the 20th century, big business detested Debs, the five-time Presidential candidate of the Socialist Party, champion of workers' rights, and general trouble-maker for industry. He was sentenced to a ten-year prison term, but President Harding let him out in 1920.  His arrest was clearly political.

Today, sitting in an Arizona jail cell is a man who during the 80's and 90's was detested by the new industrial barons of the 21st century - the CEOs of high tech corporations and financial security firms and giant accounting and insurance companies, especially the ones accused of securities fraud.  They hated and feared his resourcefulness, his tenacity, and his gift for seeing through the veneer of false quarterly statements.  As a lawyer, he was not intimidated by their power, and he amassed a personal fortune by winning settlements against large corporations engaged in securities fraud.

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Schumer Comes Out In Favor of Same-Sex Marriage

Per Ben Smith:

Chuck Schumer reportedly told gay supporters last night that he now supports same-sex marriage -- a 180-degree reversal, and an important moment in the marriage fight.

It's a big deal because it represents support for same-sex marraige moving toward becoming the default, mainstream position of the Democratic Party. Schumer's a New York senator, but he's also always been extremely careful to protect his right flank on issues like crime and gay rights.

His statement:

It's time. Equality is something that has always been a hallmark of America, and no group should be deprived of it. New York, which has always been at the forefront on issues of equality, is appropriately poised to take a lead on this issue.

I think Smith is right that this is an important harbinger for those hoping to see full equality of marital rights for same-sex couples. Coming at nearly the same time as the Vermont Senate overwhelmingly passed a same-sex marriage bill -- which would go further than the current domestic partnership law currently on the books -- this news suggests that the momentum against same-sex marriage so apparent four years ago might have been stemmed, if not reversed completely in favor of expanding rights.

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Remove Reid if Lieberman Remains

    I've about had it. The Democrats just won their second sweeping election in a row. In 2006, the anti-war, anti Bush message decapitated the GOP, sweeping them straight out of power in both houses of Congress. Not one, BOTH!! Two years later, we solidified the party's hold on Congress and kicked the GOP out of their most prized office, the Presidency.

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Schumer Unlikely to Continue at the DSCC

Earlier in the year there were indications that Chuck Schumer might remain at the helm of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee for a third term. This prospect was no doubt exciting to many Democrats, particularly in light of Tuesday's results, as the party had netted more seats in the Senate over two cycles of any other caucus had since the Republicans made major gains in 1978 and 1980. Yet alas, it appears not to be according to The Politico's Glenn Thrush.

Not a big surprise, but Democratic leadership sources tell us that DSCC Chairman Charles Schumer is planning to step aside after two gangbuster cycles and (at least) a dozen Democratic pickups.

"This is called quitting while you're ahead," said a person close to Schumer, who said the hard-driving New Yorker hadn't informed anyone of his intentions and added, "It's only a matter of time."

According to CQ, "quitting while you're ahead" isn't the only reason Schumer may be envisioning an exit from the DSCC.

The Rules Committee is dominated by senior members, including the top leaders of both parties. Schumer, No. 5 in committee seniority during the 110th Congress, is the highest-ranking Democrat who does not already chair a major committee.


He would be unlikely to continue in [as DSCC chair] if he takes the Rules chairmanship, since the committee has jurisdiction over campaign finance and election laws.

According to Thrush, at the top of the list to replace Schumer in the event that he does in fact opt against a third term at the DSCC is New Jersey's Bob Menendez, followed possibly by Minnesota's Amy Klobuchar. One name I'd throw out, not that I've heard it elsewhere but on paper it could make sense, is Mark Warner. In the slightly more than a year in which Warner waged his campaign -- which, by the way, was never competitive -- he managed to bring in a remarkable $13 million. Although Warner will begin his first year in the Senate in January, and no first-year member has ever chaired the DSCC, Warner is a great fundraiser, has a nationwide fundraising base, and has a national profile. Any thoughts on who you might want to see as the next DSCC chair, assuming Schumer moves on?

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