LEWISTON — Maine’s senior senator is one of six negotiators working on overhauling the country’s health care system, but so far she is not seeing the money that typically flows to key congressional players.

Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, received about $14,000 in campaign contributions from health-industry-related political action committees during the first half of the year, according to public records. The top Republican on the committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, received nearly $200,000 from such contributors between Jan. 1 and June 30, according to the latest Federal Election Commission filings.

“I’m really surprised that’s all she’s received; that’s not much money,” said Mark Brewer, a political science professor at the University of Maine. “She is really one of the handful of senators that are going to make or break this.”

Of the six senators who have been working almost exclusively on controversial health-care legislation for many weeks now, only one has received fewer health-care industry lobbying funds than the $368,000 Snowe has collected since 2005.

Montana Democratic Sen. Max Baucus, who serves as the committee chairman, has tallied about $3 million from health-care PACs and industry individuals since 2005, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Grassley comes in second, collecting about $1 million, according to data from the nonpartisan, Washington, D.C.-based group that tracks campaign contributions.

Health is the top lobbying sector in federal government, doling out more than $263 million so far this year, said Dave Levinthal, a spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics.

“In 2008, and the first half of 2009, health is firmly No. 1 and that’s not at all coincidental,” he said, adding that the industry spent nearly $500 million on federal lobbying last year.

President Barack Obama has made reforming the country’s health-care system a priority for his administration and has expressed some general policy preferences for such an overhaul. But his decision to leave the details up to Congress has encouraged a lobbying bonanza for all of the interest groups affected by such change.

“Lobbying is, by its nature, an attempt to influence the trajectory of legislation,” Levinthal said. “If people didn’t think this was effective, then lobbying wouldn’t take place.”

A Snowe spokesman said the senator’s support is not for sale.

“During her tenure in Congress, Sen. Snowe has clearly demonstrated that she is solely focused on making decisions based on the merits of the issue and what she believes is right for the people of Maine and the nation,” said John Gentzel, her communications director.

UMO’s Brewer said he expects Snowe’s third-quarter FEC reports to show that she has received much more in contributions. But he said people make too much of the influence lobbying has on lawmakers.

“In terms of buying influence and buying outcomes, I just think it’s ridiculously overrated,” he said. “We have the most regulated, cleanest financial system we’ve ever had. The days of Nixon sending his guys out to collect brown paper bags of stacks of hundreds are long gone.”

Money buys access, Brewer acknowledged, but most lobbying money goes to lawmakers whom the groups already know agree with them, he said.

“They don’t donate to move opinion; they donate money so that this person that already agrees with them stays in office,” he said.

Among Snowe’s health industry contributors are the American Hospital Association, insurance companies and groups representing physical therapists and pharmacists.

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, a Democrat from Maine’s 2nd District, has received nearly $40,000 from health-related PACs so far this year. Michaud serves as chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health and is a member of the Blue Dog Caucus, a conservative Democratic group focused on reducing the federal deficit, both of which make him an attractive target for health lobbyists. Just last week, the Blue Dogs gained cost-saving concessions from colleagues on a House health care bill.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from Maine’s 1st District, received $4,000 from health-related PACs and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, took in $1,000, so far this year.

The Senate is scheduled to adjourn for its August recess on Friday. Snowe and her five colleagues are expected to continue working on legislation over the break. The committee is slated to take up a bill by mid-September.

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