Pharmaceutical Campaign Money Delivered to Key Legislators with Surgical Precision

Democrats again have narrow positions in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and political scientists and other experts dealing with money in politics have said the contributions are likely to reflect who is in power, which legislators will face tougher re-election rates. next year and who has a huge impact on legislation affecting the industry. Bottom line.

Several pharmaceutical companies have suspended payments to Republican lawmakers who voted against confirming the 2020 election results, lowering overall GOP fundraising and overall industry donations compared to other years.

The pharmaceutical industry’s contribution to the campaign is clearly strategic, he said. Stephen Billett, Assistant Professor at the Graduate School of Political Management, George Washington University.

“This is a really well-organized commercial sector,” Bille said. “If I am one of these PACs, I looked at the situation early on in the process, decided on our agenda and budget, and figured out who I can and cannot contact. to get to.”

Of the 10 largest recipients of funding, Republican MPs were six; Democrats, four. Representative Scott Peters (District of Columbia) received the most money from all Members of Congress, with contributions in the first half of the year at $ 63,900. According to the KHN database, Peters, whose San Diego area includes several pharmaceutical companies, has consistently accepted money from drug manufacturers since taking office in 2013. Right behind Peters was Rep. Katie McMorris Rogers, Washington, who received $ 50,000 from the industry in the first six months of 2021. McMorris Rogers was selected this year as the highest-ranking Republican on the House Energy and Trade Committee. which has a significant impact on pharmaceutical matters. Peters is on the same committee.

“They’re usually going to saturate the committees that are relevant to their industry,” said Nick Penniman, CEO of Issue One, a nonprofit that advocates reforming the influence of money in politics.

Next in line was Senator Robert Menendez (DN.J.), who received $ 49,300, the most senator this year, despite not being re-elected until 2024. The vote of Menendez, a longtime ally of the industry, will be critical for Democrats. accept any proposal that gives the government more control over drug prices. The pharmaceutical industry is a major employer in New Jersey, home to giants such as Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi.

Menendez said he was waiting for a proposal “which I expect will include language that allows Medicare to negotiate drug prices.”

“The focus of any proposal should be on lowering patient costs,” he said, “and that will drive my analysis.”

Other moderate Democrats include Senator Kirsten Cinema (Arizona), whose voice is also critical to the passage. According to the KHN database, she received $ 108,500 in donations from pharmaceutical companies in 2019-2020. However, in the first half of this year, she received only $ 8,000. She did not publicly disclose what the current price offer is.

According to Bille, the pharmaceutical industry knew that letting Medicare negotiate drug prices was likely to be on the table, and pharmaceutical companies supported participants such as Peters and Menendez, who had sided with them in the past. In addition, “the Democrats are running the train right now, and because of this they are going to get some more contributions,” Bille added.

Peters has received funds from nearly two dozen companies or industry groups including Eli Lilly, Takeda Pharmaceutical, Pfizer, Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, EMD Serono, and Amgen. Menendez’s donors were Boehringer Ingelheim, Sanofi, Pfizer, Merck, Gilead Sciences, Eli Lilly, Teva, and Novo Nordisk. A Peters spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

According to the authors, drug price control enjoys widespread support among the adult population, regardless of the political party. survey from KFF (KHN is an editorially independent program of KFF). But faced with industry opposition, Democrats have yet to agree on a plan as lawmakers weigh which policies translate into a large domestic bill for expanding safety nets and tackling climate change. The central argument of the industry is that increased government intervention in price setting will harm the development of new drugs; however, drug pricing experts usually find this argument exaggerated. Republicans remain unanimously opposed, which means Senate Democrats cannot afford to defect to advance legislation.

The fourth largest industry contribution was Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Newcomer to the legislature of the powerful Senate finance committee that oversees legislation affecting federal health programs such as Medicare. Cortez Masto received $ 46,000, with cash from companies such as Eli Lilly, Merck, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, the latter of which filed for bankruptcy in 2020 after flooding legal proceedings over its alleged role in the opioid crisis. One of her recent aides, Eben DuRoss, was hired as a lobbyist for this year’s Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, as federal disclosures indicate.

Cortez Masto will be re-elected next year in the state, on the battlefield in which Republicans and Democrats competed in the recent elections. She was elected by a narrow vote in 2016 and recently survey revealed that it has pulled slightly ahead of its anticipated 2022 Republican rival, former Nevada attorney general Adam Laxalt.

But her contributions overshadow those of other Senate Democrats in close races. For example, in the first half of this year Senator Maggie Hassan (DN.H.), who also sits on the Senate Finance Committee, said it accepted $ 6,000.

Two other legislators in the competition, Senator Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) And Senator Mark Kelly (D-Arizona) has not received funding from the pharmaceutical sector.

Sarah Brainer, director of research at OpenSecrets, a nonprofit that tracks money in politics, noted several reasons why Cortez Masto would like to raise more money. Aside from a committee seat and a competitive race, she is politically more moderate than progressive legislators, who have been more active campaigners against the pharmaceutical industry.

“She is not considered an extremist, but this is the person who usually takes the most money,” from the political action committees, Brainer said.

Cortez Masto also recently served as chairman of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and has therefore been actively involved in the party’s national fundraising efforts to retain the majority of Democrats in the Senate. These relationships with corporate and other donors can be used for her own race, Brainer said. “Once you’ve established all the relationships, they won’t just disappear,” she said.

However, freshman Democrat openly supported allows Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs, unlike Menendez, who voted against the idea in 2019. A Nevada senator recently told KHN that she is “fully” supportive of politics and that pharmaceutical money flowing into her campaign coffers does not affect her. solutions.

“I already supported him in the financial sector and actually voted to pass the law to do just that,” said Cortes Masto. “We need to cut healthcare costs for many people in this country, and I’m focused on that, including reducing the cost of prescription drugs.”

Peters, who ousted a Republican in 2012, was one of four moderate Democrats in the House of Representatives who voted in September against a plan to give Medicare broad powers to negotiate prescription drug prices. They supported a narrower alternative that includes caps on out-of-pocket spending and limits Medicare’s negotiating power to a smaller set of drugs.

The money Peters and McMorris Rogers received from the drug manufacturers ($ 63,900 and $ 50,000, respectively) has grown significantly over the same periods in previous cycles. In the first half of 2019, Peters received $ 19,500, and in the same quarters of 2017, he received $ 36,000. McMorris Rogers’ catch in the first six months of 2019 was $ 2,500, up from $ 3,000 two years earlier. However, in the first half of 2019, Menendez received more funding ($ 52,000) than this year.

Several drug makers, including Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Gilead and Eli Lilly, as well as PhRMA and the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, another industry lobbying group, have suspended donations to Republicans in the wake of the events. 6th January this seems, at least in part, to explain the overall decline in pharmaceutical company premiums compared to other years. In the first half of 2019, drug manufacturers gave $ 3.7 million, and in the first half of 2017, about $ 4.4 million, up from $ 1.6 million in 2021.

However, PACs of other pharmaceutical companies and their industry groups continued to contribute or failed to cancel checks they issued to those who refused to confirm election results, according to KHN’s analysis of FEC data.

These include Merck, Novo Nordisk, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Genentech, Boehringer Ingelheim, Amgen, Teva, EMD Serono, and the Association for Accessible Medicines, which have all given $ 1,000 or more to at least one of the 147 Republicans who voted to cancel the election results.

Direct political contributions to legislators are just one way for the industry to channel money to Congress. Companies also provide money to trade associations and 501 (C) (4) s, which are non-profit organizations that often function as “dark money” groups because they are not required to disclose their donors.

“We know what they give; they didn’t stop giving. Their donations went underground, ”said Carlos Holguin, director of research at the Center for Political Accountability, a non-profit organization that tracks money in politics.

Groups also invest in advertising – in September PhRMA announced a seven-figure ad campaign against the Democratic drug pricing plan – or in protection groups from where it can eventually go to political candidates.

Another factor? Hello COVID-19 vaccines, developed and distributed in record time and arguably reinforced the goodwill of legislators. Or that despite everything lawmakers have said about drug price cuts, the industry suspects drug pricing legislation will stop again and is unwilling to spend its political capital on the issue.

“I think to be honest, drug makers know they’ve won the match when it comes to drug pricing. This whole question of the cost of pharmaceuticals has been raised for literally decades, and they have been successfully closing it year after year, ”Penniman said. “At some point, they know they’ve driven a nail deep enough into the tree that they don’t need to do much more.”

Kaiser Health News is the national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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