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Introducing Huffington Post Investigative Fund's Health Care Unit

Today, Huffington Post's Eyes & Ears began mobilizing a new cadre of citizen journalists to follow health care reform legislation.
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Today, the Huffington Post Investigative Fund began mobilizing a new cadre of citizen journalists to follow the progress of health care reform legislation with the support of Huffington Post's Eyes & Ears. By targeting the top recipients of campaign cash from the health care industry in both the House and Senate these investigators, now members of the Eyes & Ears Health Care Investigative Unit, will help track the key players and methods involved in crafting related legislation. Most importantly, the project will adapt itself to tackle the most pressing issues of the ever-evolving health care battle.

President Obama's rhetoric on health care reform has grown increasingly urgent in recent weeks. Meanwhile, Congress has produced a bill in the Senate and one in the House. It's a frenzied and weighty time in Washington, and the results can either be historic or, as they were at the beginning of Bill Clinton's term, inconsequential.

We need your help keeping track of it all and have three ways we hope you'll work with us: 1) Correlating campaign donations with legislative changes and votes. 2) Deconstructing drafts of legislation. 3) Tracking the moves of the top recipients of campaign cash.

1) One of the big issues at stake, of course, is the public option. Yesterday, Bloomberg reported--falsely, according to Sen. Kent Conrad (D-SD)--that President Obama was open to dropping the public option.

So who's interested in whether or not the public option sticks around? Interest groups and health care companies, of course.

This is where the Health Care Investigative Unit's work will start. As interest groups and lobbyists have already invested heavily in Capitol Hill through campaign contributions, our citizen journalists will track down which specific groups donated to whom; which members of Congress voted in accordance with the interests of certain health care lobbies; and what these trends portend for the upcoming legislative battle. With the help of and their accessible database of political contributions, a team of specialized citizen journalists will spend the summer digging into the data and helping us make the connections.

2) In addition to connecting those dots (from dollars to votes), the Investigative Unit will also deconstruct drafts of legislation as committees release them. Given the recent success of the collective analysis the Eyes & Ears team did with Sen. Kennedy's bill, this prong of the investigation will help make more transparent how the language of legislation evolves and how it correlates to the wishes of interest groups and lobbyists.

3) Finally, a team of citizen journalists will be mobilized to monitor the actions of those congressmen and senators who receive the most campaign support from the health care industry. Again, with the help from, citizen journalists will weigh official statements with off-the-cuff remarks, speak regularly with the congressional staffers in Washington, DC, and in their home districts, and pay close attention to how congressmen and Senators interact with lobbyists and health care companies.

Along the way, the Health Care Investigative Unit will work with reporters and editors from the Huffington Post and the Investigative Fund who will vet their work according to professional journalistic standards. Certain scoops will be picked up and managed by the Huffington Post Investigative Fund and could turn into deeper investigations.

Those up for special scrutiny include (and their receipts from the health care industry):

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ): $7,504,867

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA): $7,341,399

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA): $2,149,503

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT): $1,795,949

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY): $1,743,835

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT): $1,685,890

Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC): $1,350,454

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX): $1,346,574

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ): $1,321,457

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA): $1,160,826

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH): $1,081,378

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC): $ 999,611

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN): $ 994,699

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT): $ 980,417

Sen. Thomas Harkin (D-IA): $ 935,711

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA): $ 919,793

Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR): $ 896,067

Sen. Debbie Ann Stabenow (D-MI): $ 827,294

Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD): $ 797,185

Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT): $ 788,650

Rep. Tom Price (R-GA, 6th): $2,090,127

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ, 6th): $1,627,024

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX, 6th): $1,518,285

Rep. John Gingrey (R-GA, 11th): $1,392,343

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY, 15th): $1,304,569

Rep. John Dingell (D-MI, 15th): $1,148,060

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA, 7th): $1,136,519

Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO, 7th): $1,102,468

Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA, 7th): $1,058,786

Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA, 9th): $1,046,519

The true influence of lobbyists, health care companies, and special interest groups is unprecedented as this historic battle looms. The Health Care Investigative Unit's large-scale, citizen-powered effort will cover this influence from new perspectives and unearth new facts about how Congress really makes decisions.

If you're interested in joining the Investigative Unit, please sign up using the form below.

Thanks, in advance, for all your help.

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