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Former Lawmakers and Congressional Staffers Hired to Lobby on Health Care

Former House majority leader Richard K. Armey, left, is one of several ex-congressmen working on behalf of health-care companies as a Senate committee considers legislation. Armey represents a New Jersey pharmaceutical firm.
Former House majority leader Richard K. Armey, left, is one of several ex-congressmen working on behalf of health-care companies as a Senate committee considers legislation. Armey represents a New Jersey pharmaceutical firm. (By Danny Johnston -- Associated Press)

The personal and professional ties between lawmakers, their staffs and lobbyists are often complex. Consider the case of Tarplin and his wife, Republican lobbyist Linda Tarplin. The two worked on opposite sides of the Family Medical Leave Act debate in the 1990s, and each has held high-ranking HHS positions -- he for Bill Clinton and she for George H.W. Bush.

Now they run their own health-care lobbying firms, drawing on their connections. Last year, Richard Tarplin's firm reported $650,000 in lobbying income and his wife's firm -- Tarplin, Downs and Young -- reported $3.5 million.

"We have been in situations that are much more combative than this," Linda Tarplin said of the health-care fight. "Both Democrats and Republicans want health-care reform. The rub has always been they tend to get there in different ways."

At least eight former HHS appointees have also crossed over into health-care lobbying, representing more than 25 companies with a stake in the reform legislation. Most were presidential appointees with high-ranking positions, such as the Tarplins.

A few have also cycled back into government. Jack Charles Ebeler, a former Clinton HHS official, left his job as president and chief executive of the Alliance of Community Health Plans a few months ago to become senior adviser for health policy on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Financial disclosure statements show that Ebeler received consulting fees over the past two years from UnitedHealth Group, Academy Health, the Medicare Rights Center, the Center for Health Care Strategies and the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. Ebeler declined interview requests by The Post.

One of the most prominent examples of Washington's revolving door is Tauzin, who took the $2.5 million-a-year job as head of PhRMA in 2005 after shepherding a Medicare prescription drug plan through Congress.

Uproar over the appointment led Congress in 2007 to pass a bill barring former members from bringing clients onto the House and Senate floors and from lobbying their friends in members-only gyms. The legislation also forbade direct lobbying contacts with former colleagues for a year in the House and two years in the Senate; efforts to enact a wider ban went nowhere.

Tauzin and other lobbyists rebuff critics, arguing that it is unsurprising that those with experience on Capitol Hill should then draw on that background.

"Is it a distortion of baseball to hire coaches who have played baseball? Is it a distortion of universities to hire from academia?" Tauzin asked rhetorically. "The bottom line is that people work in the fields in which they have experience. Somehow there are people who think that's unusual for politics, but I think it's pretty normal."

Graphics editor Karen Yourish, database editor Sarah Cohen and research editor Alice Crites contributed to this report.


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