POLITICS

Tom Carper's old chief of staff now a lobbyist for nation's largest health insurer

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Timothy P. Carney

Now that health-care reform has moved to the Senate, Senator Tom Carper is one of the central players: he sits on the Finance Committee's subcommittee for health, and he has positioned himself as a dealmaker on the government option in health insurance, which is the most contentious item in the whole reform package, and the item that poses the most threat to insurers.

That may be why WellPoint, the nation's largest health insurer, has retained Carper's former chief of staff to lobby on health-care reform. Jonathon Jones became Carper's chief of staff just a few weeks after Carper came to Washington in 2001, and served in that role until the end of 2006. With his boss reelected, and now serving in the majority party, Jones cashed out and went to work at the K Street firm Johnson, Madigan, Peck, Boland & Stewart.

In early 2009, Jones became a partner, and the firm changed its name to Peck, Madigan, Jones & Stewart.

Then, on September 25, insurer WellPoint hired Jones' firm to lobby in the issue areas of health care, insurance, and Medicare/Medicaid, according to the lobbying registration filed last week, which lists the anticipated "specific lobbying issues" as "Healthcare reform legislation, specifically proposals affecting health insurance providers."

Jones' other health-sector clients include drugmakers Astra-Zeneca and Amgen, the trade groups Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America and the Biotechnology Industry Organization, as well as the American Insurance Association.

In his brief 22 months as a lobbyist, Jones has given $46,800 to Democrats, including White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. Jones has also given to Majority Leader Harry Reid, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, health-care waffler Evan Bayh, as well as the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

His clients in both insurance and drugs stand to profit handsomely from health-care reform's mandates and subsidies, as long as there is no robust government option.

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