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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.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
Acres of hemp grown by “patriotic‚” U.S. farmers in 1942 at the behest of the U.S. government:
A study suggested that the health effects of exposure to nuclear radiation at Chernobyl were no worse than ill health resulting from smoking and normal urban air pollution.
Greenpeace apologized after activists accidentally defaced the site of Peru’s 2,000-year-old Nazca Lines when they unfurled cloth letters reading “time for change” near the ancient sand drawings. “We fully understand,” the group wrote in a statement, “that this looks bad.”
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“I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.”