Harry and Louise backing Hillary
Health-care sector, once a critic of then-first lady's plans for reforms, now lavishing contributions on senator.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The health-care industry, once a fierce critic of then-first lady Hillary Clinton's reform plans for the sector, is now lavishing campaign contributions on the U.S. senator ahead of her expected presidential bid.

According to Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan group that tracks campaign finance filings, Clinton has received $781,112 in contributions from the health-care sector during the current election cycle, which makes her the No. 2 recipient of funds from that sector, behind only Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., who received $977,354.

Hillary Clinton is the No. 2 recipient of campaign contributions from the health care industry, according to a non-partisan group that tracks donations.
Hillary Clinton is the No. 2 recipient of campaign contributions from the health care industry, according to a non-partisan group that tracks donations.

Clinton, the only Democrat to be in the top five in total donations from the sector, is also the No. 1 senator in terms of donations from nurses and health professionals, and the No. 2 recipient of donations from employees of hospitals and nursing homes, as well as insurance companies.

The center's Web site shows that the sector is not the top contributor to Clinton. Donations from lawyers, retirees as well as Wall Street, real estate and the entertainment industries have all topped her contributions from health care. She is also the No. 1 recipient from each of those sectors.

Partly because of her expected presidential campaign, Clinton is the top recipient among members of Congress.

The New York Times reports that while there are still some doubts about her in the health-care industry, some in the industry are making contributions in case she is elected president. The newspaper reports that William R. Abrams, the executive vice president of the Medical Society of the State of New York, is one of her fundraisers in the sector, even though he is a Republican.

Frederick H. Graefe, a health-care lawyer and lobbyist in Washington for more than 20 years, told the Times in a report published Wednesday that, "People in many industries, including health care, are contributing to Senator Clinton today because they fully expect she will be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2008.

"If the usual rules apply," Mr. Graefe said, early donors will "get a seat at the table when health care and other issues are discussed."

The figures from the Center for Responsive Politics' Web site shows Clinton has she has raised $39.2 million through March 31, in the current election cycle, while her top Republican opponent, John Spencer, has raised only $1.8 million. Santorum, locked in a much tougher election this year, has raised $18.3 million, making him Congress' No. 2 recipient.

Clinton was named by her husband, President Bill Clinton, to lead a task force early in his administration that recommended universal health care, minimum coverage requirements and potential limits on health-care spending increases.

The legislation was beat back by a strong lobbying effort by the health-care industry, including commercials featuring a fictional couple, "Harry and Louise," which mocked the plan and stirred fears of government interference in families' health-care decisions. It was credited with playing a role in the Democrats' loss of their congressional majority in the 1994 elections.

But since she was elected to the Senate in 2000, she has made an effort to reach out to the sector, and she has admitted errors in her earlier approach.

"Now as we all remember, I sought, along with my husband and his administration 12 years ago, to address the challenges that we saw in our health-care system. I still have the scars to show from that experience," she said in a speech in March to the American Medical Association. "And it is fair to say the AMA and I did not always see eye to eye. That's probably an understatement. And all I can say is thank goodness for the Hippocratic Oath."

She is a co-sponsor of legislation to promote the adoption of health information technology, which has the strong support of the industry. Her co-sponsor of that legislation is Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a physician. And she has introduced a bill to lower the cost of malpractice insurance for doctors who disclose medical errors to patients.

Related: Clinton's support on Wall StreetTop of page

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