November 15, 2005
Three More Former Lawmakers Fall Into the Lobby's Loving Arms
Capelo and Wohlgemuth Make A Health-Care Killing.
Retired Teachers Are Telford’s Sole Client.
Three state lawmakers who lost or surrendered their House seats last year have resurfaced as lobbyists, collectively reporting 17 clients that are paying them up to $1.5 million this year.
Medical interests coughed up most of the money reported by the two new lobbyists who made the biggest killing: Jaime Capelo and Arlene Wohlgemuth. This same industry may have been the leading beneficiary of these lobbyists’ parting legislative session. In 2003 Rep. Capelo co-authored a Wohlgemuth-backed bill that now caps the damages paid by medical interests that commit malpractice.
Two years later, the medical interests behind this legislation are the top clients of former lawmakers Capelo and Wohlgemuth. One of the main medical groups pushing medical malpractice caps, the Texas Alliance for Patient Access, is a leading client of Capelo, who has reported up to $925,000 in 2005 lobby contracts. Dominating Capelo’s client list are medical businesses and associations, including PatientsFirst. This doctors’ group fights turf wars to curtail competition from non-physicians, including psychologists, podiatrists and optometrists (the latter of which hired Wohlgemuth).
Wohlgemuth’s other top clients include trade groups for hospitals, nurse anesthetists and the home care industry. Wohlgemuth gave up her statehouse seat in 2004 to challenge Democratic Congressman Chet Edwards. Edwards confounded Republican redistricting schemes by winning 51 percent of the vote—driving Wohlgemuth into the lobby.
2005 Clients of Ex-Rep. Capelo, D-Corpus Christi
|American College of Cardiology||$150,000||$100,000|
|Healthcare Distribution Mgmt. Assoc.||$150,000||$100,000|
|TX Ambulatory Surgery Center Society||$150,000||$100,000|
|Pediatrix Medical Group Inc.||$100,000||$50,000|
|TX Academy of Physician Assistants||$100,000||$50,000|
|TX Alliance for Patient Access||$100,000||$50,000|
2005 Clients of Ex-Rep. Wohlgemuth, R-Burleson
|TX Assoc. of Nurse Anesthetists||$100,000||$50,000|
|TX Hospital Association||$100,000||$50,000|
|Time Warner Telecom||$100,000||$50,000|
|TX Assoc. for Home Care||$50,000||$25,000|
|TX Optometric Assoc.||$50,000||$25,000|
|Citizens for Lowering Our Unfair Taxes||$25,000||$10,000|
|Private Providers Assoc. of TX||$25,000||$10,000|
|Jan Cooper (computer consultant)||$10,000||$0|
With a big assist from Capelo, opponents of medical malpractice caps got their revenge on this hapless lawmaker. In 2002 CITGO, a law client of Capelo’s, agreed to pay $3 million to settle a lawsuit filed by police officers who were injured responding to a refinery explosion. These plaintiffs later accused their own attorney, Rene Rodriguez, of conspiring with Capelo to bilk them. The officers alleged that Rodriguez paid Capelo a $100,000 kickback for agreeing to settle the case on the relative cheap.
Rodriguez countered that this check—which he said should have been made out for just $10,000—was a “referral fee” from an unrelated medical malpractice case. Corpus Christi trial lawyer Mikal Watts then took out attack ads that publicized Capelo’s whopper check during the 2004 primary. A federal judge dismissed the kickback charges against Capelo this year—long after voters banished him to the legislative lobby.
Ex-Representative Barry Telford, who opted not to stand for reelection in 2004, reported a single lobby client: the Texas Retired Teachers Association. Telford was a strong supporter of teacher benefits when he was in the House. During his last session, for example, he sponsored a failed budget amendment that would have earmarked $45 million for the Teacher Retirement System. Telford said this supplement would “help take the sting out” of new increases in the insurance premiums paid by these retirees.
2005 Client of Ex-Rep. Telford, D-Dekalb
|TX Retired Teachers Assoc.||$150,000||$100,000|