Pitt, UPMC Increased Federal Lobbying in 2006
Conti, David, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
The University of Pittsburgh and UPMC spent more money wooing Congress last year than most other schools and hospitals across the country, federal records show.
The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center spent about $1 million on federal lobbying, more than any other hospital tracked by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
At the same time, Pitt increased its spending on federal lobbying to about $520,000, putting the university in the top 12 schools tracked by the Washington watchdog and helping it secure nearly $15 million in congressional earmarks for its projects during the last fiscal year.
Both organizations said it's money well spent, considering the amount of federal funding they have secured for research projects.
"It's allowed us to become a national player in these health care fields," said Robert Kennedy, vice president for governmental affairs at UPMC. He said the hospital system has received more than $40 million in earmarks annually for the past three years.
"The university generates $600 million in research, so we see this as a substantial investment in the region," said Pitt spokesman John Fedele.
Congress has changed its rules to limit the influence of lobbyists as critics denounce their connection to so-called pork- barrel spending, the appropriations and earmarks for individual projects that are anonymously slipped into laws.
Both organizations spent most of their money on contracts with professional lobbying firms.
"They are feeding into a system of corruption in D.C. when they hire lobbyists to go around the process," said David Williams, vice president of policy for the group Citizens Against Government Waste, which publishes an annual "Pig Book" of earmark projects.
Barry Kauffman, executive director of Pennsylvania Common Cause, said taxpayers should be concerned about how Pitt, a state- supported university, is spending state money.
"Certainly, we want Pennsylvania health care and educational institutions to go after all the federal dollars available," Kauffman said. "But one has to ask, why doesn't the university have sufficient in-house resources to represent itself without the outside firms?"
Fedele said all state money goes directly to educational programs and is not used for lobbying.
Professional lobbyists "know who to call to get this done," said Tim LaPira, a researcher at the Center for Responsive Politics. …