Norton, set to announce bid for U.S. Senate, questioned about lobbyist past

Jane Norton, executive director of the Denver Police Foundation, former lieutenant governor and soon-to-be official Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, is another among the ranks of U.S. politicians that has shuttled between influential positions in the government and the health-care industry.

Was Jane Norton a health-industry lobbyist? If so, what did she lobby for, exactly?

From 1994 to 1999, Norton headed the lobbying department of Englewood-based Medical Group Management Association, “the principle voice for the medical practice association.” Norton was the executive director of the Office of State Government Relations and the Office of Strategic Relationships. Directly after her tenure at MGMA, Norton was appointed by Gov. Bill Owens to head the state’s Department of Public Health and Environment, a position in which she oversaw multiple state “planning groups” that engineered health coverage across Colorado, this time being paid by tax payers to work as the “principle voice” for health-care consumers.

Calls to MGMA confirm she headed the association’s lobbying department.

“Yes, this is the lobbying arm of the organization,” a spokesperson at the Department of Government Affairs confirmed. Human Resources staffer Jenny Morales said that the group Norton headed used to be called the Office of Strategic Relationships and is now simply called the Department of Government Affairs.

“In speaking with some of our tenured employees,” Morales wrote in an email, “Ms. Norton held a number of positions at MGMA. One of which was Director of Government Policy in 1994. When she left the Association, her job title was Executive Director Strategic Relations.”

Messages left for Norton today, with her campaign spokesperson and at her Denver Police Foundation office, have so far gone unreturned. But her relationship with the health industry and how it has shaped her view of health care and of reform will receive much greater scrutiny beginning tomorrow when she is scheduled to officially announce that she is challenging Democrat Michael Bennet for his seat in the U.S. Senate.

Already, unabashed liberal advocacy organization Progress Now is pressing the case. The group put out a release Monday morning on the matter, stating that staffers have searched U.S. Senate and Colorado Secretary of State databases but that Norton appears nowhere on the rolls of registered lobbyists.

“We call on Jane Norton to immediately come clean on her work history in ‘Government Relations’ for the for-profit health care industry,” Progress Now founder and CEO Michael Huttner is quoted to say in the release. “We also question why Norton did not register as a lobbyist when she was head of ‘Government Relations’ for a for-profit health industry lobbying organization.

“We want to know the full extent of Norton’s lobbying and whether she failed to comply with the law.”

At her campaign website, Norton describes her work for MGMA:

[R]esponsibilities included monitoring health care reform legislative and regulatory proposals in the 50 states on behalf of MGMA’s 18,000 clinic administrator members and 6,700 medical group members; and expanding relationships with industry partners and the nation’s medical schools.

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