Commentary Magazine


Topic: pharmaceutical lobby

Insider Dealing With Drug Lobby?

House Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee released a trove of emails they’ve collected as part of their investigation into the White House’s deal with the pharmaceutical lobby during the 2009 push for ObamaCare.

We already know that drug companies agreed to provide $80 billion in savings in the law, in exchange for industry protections in the legislation. But the new emails provide more details on the deal, including an agreement by the drug companies to run a public relations campaign on behalf of the White House, with TV ads touting both the health care reform law and the politicians who supported it. Bloomberg reports:

“As part of our agreement, PhRMA needs to undertake a very significant public campaign in order to support policies of mutual interest to the industry and the administration,” according to a July 14, 2009, memo from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. “We have included a significant amount for advertising to express appreciation for lawmakers’ positions on health care reform issues.”

The goal, the memo said, was to “create momentum for consensus health care reform, help it pass, and then acknowledge those senators and representatives who were instrumental in making it happen and who must remain vigilant during implementation.”

The internal memos and e-mails for the first time unveil the industry’s plan to finance positive TV ads and supportive groups, along with providing $80 billion in discounts and taxes that were included in the law. The administration has previously denied the existence of a deal involving political support.

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House Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee released a trove of emails they’ve collected as part of their investigation into the White House’s deal with the pharmaceutical lobby during the 2009 push for ObamaCare.

We already know that drug companies agreed to provide $80 billion in savings in the law, in exchange for industry protections in the legislation. But the new emails provide more details on the deal, including an agreement by the drug companies to run a public relations campaign on behalf of the White House, with TV ads touting both the health care reform law and the politicians who supported it. Bloomberg reports:

“As part of our agreement, PhRMA needs to undertake a very significant public campaign in order to support policies of mutual interest to the industry and the administration,” according to a July 14, 2009, memo from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. “We have included a significant amount for advertising to express appreciation for lawmakers’ positions on health care reform issues.”

The goal, the memo said, was to “create momentum for consensus health care reform, help it pass, and then acknowledge those senators and representatives who were instrumental in making it happen and who must remain vigilant during implementation.”

The internal memos and e-mails for the first time unveil the industry’s plan to finance positive TV ads and supportive groups, along with providing $80 billion in discounts and taxes that were included in the law. The administration has previously denied the existence of a deal involving political support.

The political campaign aspect is the most troubling part of the deal, and it’s not likely to sit well with Obama’s base. According to the emails, the administration killed Democrat-supported provisions that would cut into drug company profits in order to secure the industry’s political and financial support. And that’s not the only part that will enrage the left. The emails show Obama completely flouted his 2008 promises to stand up against special interests and conduct negotiations transparently — mere months after he was elected. As Phil Klein writes:

Taken together, the emails paint a picture of insider deal making with a powerful special interest – something that stands in stark contrast to Obama’s campaign pledges.

In 2008, Obama ran an ad titled “Billy,” blasting then PhRMA president Billy Tauzin and the art of deal making in Washington. “I don’t want to learn how to play the game better, I want to put an end to the game playing,” Obama vowed.

Yet months into his presidency, Obama cut a deal with Tauzin’s lobbying group, and did so behind closed doors – a violation of his pledge to broadcast all health care negotiations on C-SPAN.

The presidency did not crush Obama’s idealism. He was never a reformer, not even at the beginning of his term. Just look at the defense today from Obama’s supporters in Congress:

“President Obama’s efforts to enlist the support of private industry are exactly what presidents have always done to enact major legislation,” U.S. Representatives Henry Waxman of California and Diana DeGette of Colorado said in a joint statement.

In other words, it’s not Obama’s fault that voters actually believed his principled campaign rhetoric. He was just doing “exactly what presidents have always done.”

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Another “Never Mind”

The number of “never minds” is increasing in the name of health-care “reform.” Candidate Obama promised that no one earning less than $250,000 would have his taxes raised. Oh well, that was then. (The White House cheered as an amendment by Sen. Mike Crapo to strip out taxes on anyone below the $250,000 threshold went down to defeat 45-54, with five Democrat defections.) Candidate Obama was in favor of drug reimportation, allowing U.S. citizens to buy cheaper drugs at rates available outside the U.S. Oh well, that was then. Yesterday the Senate voted down a drug-reimportation measure brought by Byron Dorgan. As Dana Milbank points out, Obama sided with “Big Pharma”:

On the campaign trail, Barack Obama vowed to take on the drug industry by allowing Americans to import cheaper prescription medicine. “We’ll tell the pharmaceutical companies ‘thanks, but no, thanks’ for the overpriced drugs — drugs that cost twice as much here as they do in Europe and Canada,” he said back then.

On Tuesday, the matter came to the Senate floor — and President Obama forgot the “no, thanks” part. Siding with the pharmaceutical lobby, the administration successfully fought against the very idea Obama had championed. “It’s got to be a little awkward,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.).

Only a little. The Obami really aren’t capable of being shamed by evidence that they have reneged on campaign promises or that positions are taken willy-nilly without regard to any coherent ideology or legislative scheme. They have a higher objective: getting anything passed. Understandably, liberals who don’t like drug companies on principle, and reformists who think the fix is in from moneyed lobbyists, are shocked, shocked, to find that the Obami are without principles.

The result may be a truly awful bill, a lot of disappointed voters, and many, many effective campaign ads for Republicans. At some point a smart Democrat or two looking at this might want to consider whether “never mind” is the best response to a health-care bill that reforms nothing and demonstrates only that Obama snookered a whole bunch of voters.

The number of “never minds” is increasing in the name of health-care “reform.” Candidate Obama promised that no one earning less than $250,000 would have his taxes raised. Oh well, that was then. (The White House cheered as an amendment by Sen. Mike Crapo to strip out taxes on anyone below the $250,000 threshold went down to defeat 45-54, with five Democrat defections.) Candidate Obama was in favor of drug reimportation, allowing U.S. citizens to buy cheaper drugs at rates available outside the U.S. Oh well, that was then. Yesterday the Senate voted down a drug-reimportation measure brought by Byron Dorgan. As Dana Milbank points out, Obama sided with “Big Pharma”:

On the campaign trail, Barack Obama vowed to take on the drug industry by allowing Americans to import cheaper prescription medicine. “We’ll tell the pharmaceutical companies ‘thanks, but no, thanks’ for the overpriced drugs — drugs that cost twice as much here as they do in Europe and Canada,” he said back then.

On Tuesday, the matter came to the Senate floor — and President Obama forgot the “no, thanks” part. Siding with the pharmaceutical lobby, the administration successfully fought against the very idea Obama had championed. “It’s got to be a little awkward,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.).

Only a little. The Obami really aren’t capable of being shamed by evidence that they have reneged on campaign promises or that positions are taken willy-nilly without regard to any coherent ideology or legislative scheme. They have a higher objective: getting anything passed. Understandably, liberals who don’t like drug companies on principle, and reformists who think the fix is in from moneyed lobbyists, are shocked, shocked, to find that the Obami are without principles.

The result may be a truly awful bill, a lot of disappointed voters, and many, many effective campaign ads for Republicans. At some point a smart Democrat or two looking at this might want to consider whether “never mind” is the best response to a health-care bill that reforms nothing and demonstrates only that Obama snookered a whole bunch of voters.

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