The Other Drug War: Big Pharma's 625 Washington Lobbyists

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Executive Summary

This new Public Citizen report shows how the pharmaceutical industry fought last year, like never before, against the looming threat that Congress and President Clinton would provide senior citizens with drug coverage under Medicare.

Worried that the bulk buying power of Medicare would lead to discounted prices in the lucrative senior citizen market, the drug industry launched an unprecedented blitz of lobbying, campaign contributions, and so-called "issue" ads to help its political allies and attack its enemies.

The bill for that barrage recently became public with the availability of all lobby disclosure reports for the year 2000. Using these lobbying reports, along with data on the industry’s other political spending, "The Other Drug War: Big Pharma’s 625 Washington Lobbyists" shows the following:

  • The drug industry spent $262 million on political influence in the 1999-2000 election cycle: $177 million on lobbying, $65 million on issue ads and $20 million on campaign contributions.
  • The industry hired 625 different lobbyists last year to buttonhole lawmakers – or more than one lobbyist for every member of Congress. Unlike data on contributions and campaign ads, this comprehensive information on lobbying has recently become available (most lobbying details for the second half of 2000 didn’t become available from Congress until May 2001 and no organization has analyzed the data as thoroughly as Public Citizen).
  • The bill for this team of lobbyists in 2000 alone: $92.3 million – a $7.2 million increase over what the industry spent for lobbying in 1999. Brand name drug companies spent $90.0 million, generic drug companies spent $2.3 million.
  • Drug companies took advantage of the revolving door between Congress and other branches of the federal government and the industry. Of the 625 lobbyists employed in 2000, more than half were either former members of Congress (21) or others who previously worked in Congress or in other federal government positions (295).
  • The drug industry spent more (based on available data) on lobbying and other political persuasion than any other industry in 1999-2000.
  • The drug industry lobbyists were well-connected: 33 served as Chief of Staff to members of Congress; 11 others worked for the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over a Medicare drug bill; eight others worked for the key Senate Judiciary Committee, where drug patent law is crafted.
  • In addition, six worked for the Bush I administration; five worked for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.); four worked for former Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah); five worked for current Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.); four worked for former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.); and three worked for current Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.).
  • The drug industry lobbyists primarily worked against a Medicare prescription drug benefit and bills that might moderate rising drug prices. Public Citizen’s lobbying database shows that drug industry lobbyists worked most on bills pertaining to a Medicare drug benefit, mentioning the issue 2,542 times in last year’s lobby disclosure reports. Pricing issues – which included patent and drug re-importation legislation – were mentioned 2,403 times on disclosure reports.
  • In part, these lobbyists gained access to members of Congress and their staff members, thanks to an aggressive campaign of political contributions ($20 million in the 1999-2000 election cycle) and TV ads ($65 million in 1999-2000) that often supported Republican candidates and attacked Democratic candidates.
  • The industry made $20.1 million in direct contributions to candidates and party committees in the 1999-2000 election cycle, with 59 percent of that coming in huge soft money donations, often of $100,000 or more. Seventy-six percent of all drug industry contributions went to Republicans.
  • In 2001, the drug industry continues to expand its influence. The drug industry contributed $625,000 to the Bush-Cheney inaugural, and campaign contribution reports for the first half of 2001, which are just becoming available, show that the industry has dumped at least $1.4 million in soft money into party committee coffers already this year.
  • The industry also continues to use the revolving door between Capitol Hill and K Street to its advantage. Newly registered drug industry lobbyists in 2001 include former aides to ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), new Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), and new Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.).

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