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When Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) this summer proposed a $4 billion tax on medical-device firms to help offset the cost of health-care reforms, an unusual mix of lawmakers joined in a chorus of protest.
Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), a liberal from the Northeast, warned that the tax could undermine companies developing “new technology that saves lives and money.” Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), a conservative from the Midwest, cautioned that the tax would “harm our districts’ economies, impede innovation and ultimately deny access to lifesaving medical devices.”
Because their politics rarely align, the shared opposition underlined something else Kerry and Sensenbrenner have in common: millions of dollars of family wealth invested over the years in the companies that make medical devices. This juxtaposition of investments and policy has become more common as stock ownership has soared on Capitol Hill over the past two decades. The investments increasingly put lawmakers in the position of voting or advocating on matters that could affect their personal wealth, whether the lawmakers realize it or not.
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“This is the heart of the magic factory, the place where medicine is infused with the miracles of science, and I’ve come to see how it’s done.”