By Tracy Staton
With healthcare reform topping lawmakers' to-do lists, politics is high up on Big Pharma's priorities. Drugmakers are not only putting money where their mouths are, but are hiring some consummate insiders to do the talking. The Center for Responsive Politics has crunched the numbers and found that the pharma industry is spending $1.2 million a day on lobbying. And the two biggest spenders so far? PhRMA with $7 million during the first quarter alone, and Pfizer, with more than $6 million.
Meanwhile, as the Washington Post reports, drugmakers have recruited lobbyists who are close--very close--to the lawmakers leading the charge on healthcare reform. That includes former chiefs of staff to Sen. Max Baucus, former aides and committee staffers for Sen. Charles Grassley, and some former Congressional bigwigs such as ex-House majority leaders Dick Armey and Dick Gephardt. PhRMA alone employs 49 former government staffers among its lobbyists, and dozens of others are pounding the D.C. pavement on behalf of Pfizer, Eli Lilly, and more, the Post reports.
Lawmakers say they're seeking input from a variety of "stakeholders" and that their decisions won't be influenced by the relationships or the dollars. And industry types say that the ways of Washington are so arcane that they need former insiders; no outsider could possibly understand the processes or navigate the labyrinth. As PhRMA chief Billy Tauzin told the Post, "The bottom line is that people work in the fields in which they have experience. Somehow there are people who think that's unusual for politics, but I think it's pretty normal."
Read article in the Washington Post;