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 MAPlight.org 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 MAPlight.org, 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.