Under the Influence: Money and Power in Politics

Yoder Quick To Get Down With Oil and Health Insurance

Rep. Kevin Yoder advocates for smaller government and less taxes. (Courtesy of Roll Call)Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., reports a net worth below zero, making him one of the poorest members of Congress, yet he still managed to score a prized seat on the Appropriations Committee.

How did he get that gig?

By Election Day in 2010, Yoder's fundraising total amounted to nearly $2 million, more than twice that of his opponent, Stephene Ann Moore. Moore's husband, Democrat Dennis Moore, had triggered the open seat race when he decided not to run for a seventh term.

Yoder won the seat, and while most representatives wait their turn for a spot on one of the most sought-after congressional committees, Yoder forged ahead by proving he knows how to get cash fast — particularly from big-bucks industries like pharmaceuticals and oil and gas.

Giving money to a campaign does not equal outright vote-buying, of course, but Yoder's agenda does appear to be closely in line with that of his biggest contributors.

Yoder added nearly $69,000 to his 2010 campaign chest from energy and natural resources groups, and the health industry combined gave him almost $100,000.

Among Yoder's top individual contributors was Polsinelli Shughart, a lobbying firm representing big health insurance companies and domestic fuel production associations. Polsinelli Shughart gave Yoder $27,000. Another top contributor was Cerner Corp., a medical device company, which gave him more than $24,000. Koch Industries, the Kansas-based energy company that is seeking to repeal environmental regulation, contributed $17,200 to his campaign.

Now the freshman congressman is cosponsoring two bills favoring environmental deregulation — the Free Industry Act, which would loosen restrictions on greenhouse gases, and the Ensuring Affordable Energy Act, which would make it harder for the government to enforce cap-and-trade rules.

Yoder is also cosponsoring A Roadmap for America's Energy Future, a bill that pushes to expand domestic fossil fuel production, nuclear power and renewable electricity.

On the health care side, Yoder supports Protection Medical Innovation of 2011, a bill that would repeal a tax on medical devices, and the Reclaiming Individual Liberty Act, which would repeal the mandate that individuals purchase health insurance.

Aside from Yoder's financiers, it's also worth noting that his legislative director, Patrick Carroll, previously worked as a lobbyist with Biotechnology Industry Organization, or BIO, a major industry advocate.

BIO spent more than $8 million on lobbying last year on issues including pharmaceuticals and biofuel.

BIO refused an interview request and stated it does not comment on specific lobbying activities or its consultants.

Patrick Carroll also refused to be interviewed, saying he does not comment on the record.

Yoder's office did not return phone calls.

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