According to a new filing, the Campaign to Fix the Debt, whose leadership includes lobbyists Vic Fazio and Jim McCrery, has hired lobbyists of its own. A lobbying disclosure filing by Fix the Debt reveals that as of January 2,
As we know, though the Campaign to Fix the Debt holds itself out to be budget hawks, its leaders’ companies lobby for corporate tax breaks and pocket billions in defense contracts while they attack the social safety net. Recent stories and reports have highlighted the way that the Campaign to Fix the Debt advocates for the private interests of the large finance houses, defense contractors, and other corporate interests that comprise its leadership.
But who are the lobbyists’ lobbyists?
All three are Capitol Hill insiders who have made a living advocating for budget-busting interests from finance to Big Pharma. One passed through the revolving door from guiding healthcare and drug policy to lobbying on healthcare issues. Another came to politics from Lehman Brothers in 2008 just after the firm’s risky bets pushed it into bankruptcy. The third has lobbied for Koch and private prison operator Corrections Corporation of America.*
Judd Gregg’s revolving door drug czar
Elizabeth Wroe has strong ties to Fix the Debt through co-chair Judd Gregg – she used to serve as the Senate Budget Committee’s health counsel and health policy director at the same time Gregg was chair. Like Gregg, who is now an advisor at Goldman Sachs, following her departure from the Hill, Wroe leveraged her connections and insider knowledge to go to bat for the private sector, and Big Pharma in particular. She joined Faegre Baker Daniels as a lobbyist in the firm’s health care and life sciences group and a vice president at its Faegre BD Consulting division.
Wroe’s Faegre Baker Daniels bio credits her with “directing [former Senator Gregg’s] health-related legislative agenda” and refers to her as “the lead health policy staffer for Senator Gregg on FDA issues” with responsibility “for issues such as drug importation and drug safety, follow-on biologics, device regulation and food safety, in addition to biodefense, health insurance and medical liability reform.” She worked for Gregg while the health care reform bill was in formation, 2009 to 2010.
While at Faegre Baker Daniels, Wroe lobbied for a variety of clients on healthcare and pharmaceutical issues, including the vaccine manufacturer Novavax and the Pharmaceutical Distribution Security Alliance, which counts PhRMA as a member. Pharmaceutical costs are sky-high and a key driver of health care costs, and, consequently, the long-term deficit. So naturally, Fix the Debt hired a Big Pharma lobbyist to help them lobby for deficit reduction.
The ex-Lehman employee who tried to gut the Volcker rule
Nathaniel Hoopes was a legislative aide to former Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut from 2008 to 2010 and legislative director for former Senator Scott Brown from 2010 until his employment with Fix the Debt. Before working for the senators, Hoopes worked for the private equity arm of Lehman Brothers.
In March, when regulators were formulating new banking rules after the passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, Hoopes, acting for then-Senator Brown, wrote a memo to two Treasury Department officials urging them to adopt a looser interpretation of the rule, allowing banks greater freedom to make risky investments. Hoopes sought a broad definition of the so-called 3 percent rule, preventing banks from owning more than 3 percent of a hedge fund that they sponsor in its first year; he discouraged regulators from counting carried interest toward that 3 percent; he argued that banks should not have to restrict hedge fund investments to customers who already have deposits with the bank; and he encouraged a narrow interpretation of a rule preventing banks from loaning money to bail out troubled hedge funds and private equities, only prohibiting banks from bailing out funds affiliated with banks, but not nonaffiliated funds.
Former chief economist at the IMF Simon Johnson described Hoopes’ memo to the Boston Globe as “a treatise on on how to gut [the Volcker rule]” and that his recommendations amounted to a “significant loosening of the regulations and absolutely serving the interests of people who do not want to have meaningful reform.”
The lobbyist for private prisons, Koch, and Big Pharma
Cynthia Brown is former legislative director and chief of staff to Wisconsin Representative Ron Kind. She is also a lobbyist who has represented the pharmaceutical industry, the private prison industry, and the Koch brothers at Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti.
Brown has lobbied for the private prison company Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) since 2010, which received $379 million in federal contracts in 2012. Of these contracts, $54 million was from the Department of Homeland Security, for which CCA operates detention centers for undocumented immigrants. Interestingly, in 2010 Brown also lobbied for the National Immigration Forum, a group that has advocated loosening the country’s immigration laws. Fix the Debt steering committee member Vic Fazio, a Northrop Grumman board member, is also a lobbyist for CCA.
The healthcare industry is another large sector for which Cynthia Brown has lobbied. At Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti, Brown represented drug manufacturers AstraZeneca, Biogen Idec, Merck, Pfizer, Proctor & Gamble, and the trade group PhRMA as well as health insurers, including Blue Cross Blue Shield, Humana, MDVIP, and Medica. Jim McCrery, a Fix the Debt steering committee member, also lobbies for PhRMA and Blue Cross Blue Shield. Fix the Debt advocates Medicaid and Medicare benefit cuts rather than reforms such as a national healthcare plan or Medicare drug price negotiation that would reduce healthcare costs and the deficit, but would hurt healthcare industry profits.
Other interests the Brown has lobbied for include the notorious conservative billionaire Koch brothers, whose astroturf group Americans for Prosperity funds the Tea Party; the SLARS Coalition of institutions invested in student-loan backed securities; and the Business Roundtable, a business policy group whose executive committee has 10 Fix the Debt leaders including chairman James McNerney (also chairman and CEO of defense contractor Boeing and member of Fix the Debt’s CEO leadership council), David M. Cote (chairman and CEO of defense contractor Honeywell and Fix the Debt steering committee member), and Jeffrey Immelt (chairman and CEO of General Electric and member of Fix the Debt CEO leadership council).
In short, Fix the Debt’s new lobbyists have represented the campaign’s interests at large – tax breaks and bigger profits for big corporations and austerity for the rest of Americans in the form of cuts to the social safety net. The lobbyist hires are par for the course for a group that projects a bipartisan budget hawk guise at the same time its backers are scrambling to ensure that tax and spending policies serve their 1% interests.
* UPDATE (February 6, 2013): This post originally conflated Fix the Debt lobbyist Cynthia S. Brown with former American Shipbuilding Association president and defense lobbyist Cynthia L. Brown. Cynthia S. Brown, formerly of Mehlman Vogel & Castagnetti and now working for Fix the Debt, has not lobbied for Northrop Grumman or the shipbuilding industry.