by Bob Herman
Aetna Inc. is determined to nab government approval of its $37 billion acquisition of Humana Inc. And the health insurance titan has bulked up its roster of hired guns to meet that goal.
Last week, Aetna hired four Washington-based lobbying firms, according to a Politico news brief. The not-for-profit Sunlight Foundation shows that Aetna brought on Bloom Strategic Counsel, CGCN Group, The Gibson Group and West Front Strategies. Aetna now has six lobbying firms working on its behalf this year (the other two are Capitol Hill Consulting Group and Sidley Austin L.L.P.).
The roster of CGCN Group reads as a who’s who of Beltway insiders.
A look into each of the lobbying firms shows how serious Aetna is in wielding influence and gaining access to the nation’s capital. Seth Bloom leads Bloom Strategic Counsel. He is the former general counsel of the Senate’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, which will be holding a hearing on the Aetna-Humana deal in September to see if it runs afoul of antitrust rules. Bloom also recently represented Comcast Corp., the mass media giant that gave up its bid to acquire Time Warner Cable after it appeared federal regulators would challenge the deal.
The roster of CGCN Group reads as a who’s who of Beltway insiders. Mike Catanzaro and Jay Cranford both have strong ties to Republican House Speaker John Boehner.
Joseph Gibson heads The Gibson Group. He previously was the chief minority counsel to the House Judiciary Committee and has close relationships with many congressional Republicans. The House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law will be holding its own hearings on the Aetna-Humana and Anthem-Cigna transactions in September.
West Front Strategies touts itself as “innovative, bipartisan and results-driven” on its website, and its five partners are no strangers to greasing the wheels of legislators on Capitol Hill. Shimmy Stein, one of the group’s lobbyists, used to be a senior policy adviser for former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and worked in the Justice Department, the agency tasked with reviewing all health insurance mergers.
Aetna is no stranger to K Street and has drawn some criticism for its heavy political spending. The company spent more than $3.5 million on internal and external federal lobbying expenses in 2013, according to Modern Healthcare’s lobbying database. Combined with state lobbying, Aetna’s lobbying expenses hit almost $6 million.
An Aetna spokesperson said the company had “nothing to add” to last week’s lobbyist registration forms.