When I worked at the executive level in the health industry we had to adhere to strict rules regarding behavior with government agencies. Corporate legal instructed us to be completely hands off, not even offering to pick up a lunch as the government officials would have declined such offers anyway (at least they should have and we never did). In giving testimony before government panels, individuals both on the panel as well as presenting before the panel were required to give complete financial disclosure. If a government official in the deliberations was found to be not only in receipt of financial contributions from the industry, but was also placing not their words but the verbatim words of a corporation and its agents into the record as if they were their own, it would have constituted a scandal of the highest order.
I’m grappling with this regarding our elected lawmakers. Several of them directly involved with the drafting of healthcare legislation have accepted large sums of money from the industry. These monies will be used to the benefit of those lawmakers in that it will support their re-election efforts with the attendant salary and benefits (paid for by our tax dollars). But more than that, some lawmakers are placing not their words into the Congressional Record, but the words supplied by agents of a corporation that has a vested interest in the outcome of the legislation as was revealed in Richard Pear’s recent NY Times article (1). I have heard the arguments regarding lobbying and first amendment rights regarding free speech, but I believe that line may have been crossed when lawmakers were entering not their words, but the words of corporate agents into the record as if they were their own. One might try to dance around this matter, but it stinks.
It is hard to imagine that this behavior remains within ethical bounds or perhaps even legal bounds considering the oath these lawmakers took upon taking office. Certainly they provided no disclosure of the source of the language that was placed into the record. Of interest, Owen Brewster (R-ME) who was ‘in bed’ with Juan Trippe of Pan Am in the post WWII era (the airline having been involved in the writing of legislation to give it a monopoly in international travel) was accused of corruption and gave up his chair during the hearings centered around Hughes’ corporation (a competitor to Pan Am) and its use of government funding during the war.
We should not have our elected officials in any conflicts regarding the importance of this legislation as studies have shown that American citizens are dying each day because they have reduced access to good care.
I for one am writing both media as well as some elected officials I trust to look into this matter. It is hard for me to imagine that an investigation is not warranted regarding the practices of some lawmakers.
1. In House, Many Spoke With One Voice: Lobbyists’, Richard Pear, NY Times, Nov 14, 2009