We're shocked — shocked! — that bribery is going on here

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

Few sectors are as vulnerable to Washington's fickle winds as long-term care.

In many ways, regulatory officials and lawmakers hold your fate in their hands. Combined, these folks determine how much you can earn through programs like Medicaid and Medicare. They also decide how many new rules you'll have to deal with each year.

Fortunately, this field is well represented when it comes to a lobbying presence in the nation's capital. By all accounts, the American Health Care Association and LeadingAge are plugged in.

They know the lever movers, have developed solid relationships with them (and their people) and consistently motivate providers to stay in touch.

I have several friends who work in Washington at lobbying firms, and am on friendly-ish terms with a few lobbyists. To a man and woman, these folks are charming, intelligent and talking-points disciplined. They are also fun to be around, and always seem to have a fresh supply of insider stories.

If it sounds like a glamourous life, that's because in many ways it can be. But to be blunt, the job's not all about handshakes, meals and giggles. And maybe it's best if I let Mike Mulvaney give the Santa Claus speech.

For the unfamiliar, Mulvaney is the acting head of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. His job, at least on paper, is to protect Americans from the predatory practices that unchecked businesses are prone to engage in. In a previous life, he served as a member of Congress.

Speaking to bankers last week, he served up some rather interesting reminiscing about his days on the Hill.

“If you're a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn't talk to you. If you're a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you,” he said.

Anyone who has been around politics for any length of time will hardly be surprised to hear that lawmakers expect to get their beaks wet. What is a bit shocking though, is his alarming breach of protocol.

Just as baseball has its unwritten rules, so too does Washington. And it is very bad form to admit that there is a direct connection between payments and resulting policies. It's like bringing attention to a bad haircut. Except that talking about a bad haircut isn't likely to get you branded as a bribe taker.

To be fair, there are 535 members of Congress in Washington. I suppose it's possible that Mulvaney was an outlier. Perhaps most lawmakers simply see lobbyists as helpful teachers who can better educate them about matters before Congress.

Perhaps. But as bets go, I wouldn't put much money on that one.

John O'Connor is McKnight's Editorial Director.

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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.

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