Big Pharma Showers Home-State Senators With Campaign Cash
It came as little surprise when Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) yesterday moved to kill efforts to lower seniors’ drug costs by squeezing Big Pharma. After all, Baucus earlier in the year had agreed to a controversial deal with the drug lobby, under which the drug companies vowed to support health reform legislation with $80 billion in discounts if the Democrats agreed not to tap the industry for more Medicaid rebates later.
But Baucus wasn’t the only Democrat on the panel to vote against the Democratic proposal. Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) were also vocal opponents of the amendment, and offered “no” votes to back their words.
It’s not tough to surmise the reasons.
New Jersey is one of the nation’s great pharmaceutical hubs, housing such drug giants as Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Wyeth and Schering-Plough. Earlier this year, Bausch and Lomb moved in as well.
As for Carper’s Delaware, it boasts the headquarters of AstraZeneca, a top-10 drug maker with revenues topping $31 billion last year.
And the industry has never been shy about showering local lawmakers with campaign cash. Indeed, Menendez has accepted more than $357,000 from the pharmaceutical industry over his congressional career, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Carper, for his part, has taken in nearly $208,000 from drug makers, CRS reports.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) pointed out yesterday that it was perfectly understandable that the drug makers, being publicly traded companies, would fight to preserve their profit margins for the sake of shareholders. But Congress, Schumer added, is bound to different interests. “We don’t represent their stockholders,” he said. “We represent our stockholders — the U.S. taxpayers.”
Someone please inform the Senate Finance Committee.