Consumer group urges Congress to shun healthcare lobbyists

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Consumer education and advocacy group Consumer Watchdog is urging members of Congress to avoid healthcare-related lobbying and fundraising efforts until after it deals with healthcare reform.

The healthcare industry and its lobbyists have held at least 130 fundraisers this year for members of Congress who sit on key committees considering healthcare legislation, according to the group. Consumer Watchdog last week released an analysis showing that individuals and political action committees (PACs) related to the healthcare industry donated $30.7 million to members of those committees during the same period of time.

According to the consumer group, the fundraisers ranged from events such as a Healthcare Industry Reception for Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., with a required donation of $500, to a PAC Gold Host event, requiring a $5,000 contribution, for Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

The group is calling on members of Congress to cancel upcoming fundraisers and return compaign contributions received from the industry until deliberations on healthcare reform are completed.

“Who can tell which hard decisions on health reform are being made over $1,000 high-balls shared by lobbyists and politicians while the public’s locked out of the room?” said Carmen Balber, Washington director for Consumer Watchdog. “The public can’t be confident in health reform if Congress insists on accepting industry money while legislating.”