By Wenyin Lu and Pat Dolan
July 31, 2017

Ever since former Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) was confirmed to lead the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in February, his former senior congressional aides have become hot commodities for special interests seeking to lobby the agency. Over the last six months, three of Price’s former staffers have reported lobbying the agency now headed by their old boss. Two of these staffers-turned-lobbyists also reported adding new clients shortly after Secretary Price’s confirmation, then lobbied HHS on their behalf.

According to quarterly lobbying disclosure reports on file with the Senate Office of Public Records, Matt McGinley, then-Rep. Price’s chief of staff from 2005 to 2011, has lobbied HHS on behalf of the tobacco and pharmaceutical industries in the months since Secretary Price was confirmed. McGinley is the sole lobbyist at his firm, Advanced Policy Consulting, LLC. During the first and second quarters of 2017, the tobacco company Swedish Match North America paid McGinley’s firm $50,000 to lobby HHS regarding “FDA processes that can significantly alter how the company packages and markets its products,” as well as “education regarding the FDA’s deeming process.” The filings reveal McGinley first registered to lobby on behalf of Swedish Match effective February 15 of this year, just five days after Secretary Price’s confirmation.

In addition to his work for the tobacco industry, lobbying disclosures show that McGinley has recently lobbied HHS on behalf of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), a trade industry association of pharmaceutical manufacturers, on issues including drug pricing and “opposition to the past administration’s midnight 340B Ceiling Price Rule.” That rule requires some drug manufacturers to provide rebates to certain health clinics that have overpaid for certain medications. This past May, in a victory for the industry, Secretary Price approved a rule delaying the new rule’s implementation until October. McGinley’s firm was paid a total of $60,000 in the first and second quarters by PhRMA, a client he’s lobbied for since last year.

McGinley also registered to lobby on behalf of Merck and Co., effective just two days after Secretary Price was confirmed. The pharmaceutical company paid McGinley’s firm $50,000 to lobby for them in the first and second quarters. His firm was also paid $100,000 for federal lobbying in the first two quarters of this year, including at HHS, on behalf of pharmaceutical company Amgen, a longtime client.

Nor is McGinley the only former Price staffer taking advantage of new opportunities to lobby. Twenty days after Secretary Price was confirmed to head HHS, Jeff Hamling, his former deputy chief of staff between 2005 and 2011, came out of an 18-month hiatus from being a registered federal lobbyist. Hamling registered in March to lobby for RAI Services Company, a subsidiary of tobacco giant Reynolds American Inc. He reported lobbying HHS on issues related to the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products, which oversees the tobacco industry, during the first and second quarters of 2017, then terminated his relationship with the client. RAI Services paid lobbying firm Dentons US LLP $40,000 for Hamling’s work.

Finally, Travis Johnson, Secretary Price’s former senior legislative assistant from 2005 to 2008, lobbied HHS in the second quarter of 2017 on behalf of Cigna Corporation, a health insurance company, and Premier Healthcare Solutions, an alliance of hospitals and healthcare providers. These two clients paid the Eris Group almost $60,000 for lobbying HHS during the second quarter. While Johnson has been a lobbyist at the Eris Group since the first quarter of 2016, he had not lobbied HHS until his former boss was confirmed as Secretary.

Tom Price’s confirmation to HHS appears to have opened up new professional opportunities for his former congressional staff, providing a particularly stark example of how the revolving door actually works in practice. At the start of a new administration, special interest groups look to establish new connections to those in power, giving those lobbyists with the right contacts the chance to cash in.