I think this Ezra Klein post on the role of for-profit interest groups in the health reform debate is uncharacteristically wrong. Ezra’s view is something like:
—Dems surrender to interest groups at key junctures.
— Groups deliver no GOP votes.
— Therefore, the interest groups have waning power.
I see it as almost the reverse. What happened in the health care debate is that interest groups were able to get their way on most key points without needing to seriously attempt to deliver votes in exchange. The AMA is supporting the bill, but it’s not running ads against opponents. Pharmaceutical companies and insurers haven’t dropped out of the ferociously anti-reform Chamber of Commerce. No interest group that I’m aware of is cutting off the flow of funds to Chuck Grassley to punish him for his role in sabotaging health reform. Nobody is hitting Olympia Snowe for her bait-and-switch. I haven’t read a single story about a single Republican being “in trouble” with supporters for his or her opposition to reform.
Basically thanks to their influence over “centrist” Democrats, the interest groups were able to get 85 percent of what they wanted in exchange for absolutely nothing.