To the surprise of — well, absolutely nobody I guess — Harry Reid is rolling in drug money. Tim Carney reports that “no incumbent is receiving as much air support from the drug industry as is Reid, who championed a health care bill that pads drug company profits”:
Right after [PhRMA head Billy] Tauzin’s July 22, 2009, West Wing visit, for instance, drug industry political action committees began pumping cash into Reid’s endangered campaign.
Tauzin visited the West Wing on a Wednesday, and Eli Lilly’s $5,000 PAC check reached Reid on Friday. The following Monday, Reid got two $5,000 PAC checks: one from PhRMA and another from the nation’s largest drug maker, Pfizer. Within a week, drug giants Merck and Astra-Zeneca had ponied up, too. That’s at least $23,000 in pharmaceutical PAC money in 10 days.
When the bill became law in March, PhRMA, Pfizer, Lilly, the Biotechnology Industry Organization and other drug PACs all ponied up again.
Reid has received $154,000 from Pharma PACs as of May 30, making him the No. 2 recipient behind Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., whose base is in the Research Triangle. Reid is the only politician to get the maximum $10,000 contribution from PhRMA as of the end of May. He’s also the only senator to get the max from Eli Lilly’s PAC. The health sector is Reid’s prime source of PAC funds: half a million dollars already — and that doesn’t count the TV buys.
Reid’s lobbyist-bundlers (his volunteer fundraisers from K Street) also come from Big Pharma. Paul DiNino is a lobbyist at Cornerstone Government Affairs, which represents PhRMA, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Novartis, Pfizer and Sanofi-Aventis. DiNino also raised $23,950 for Reid last year alone.
Tony Podesta represents Amgen and Genzyme, and he has bundled at least $78,400 for Reid. William Singer, a Pfizer lobbyist, clocked $39,750 for Reid last year. DLA Piper — the K Street firm that cut ties with Republican former House Majority Leader Dick Armey because of his opposition to Obamacare — has a PAC that has raised at least $26,400 for Reid.
Reid this fall will likely follow Obama’s lead, and falsely paint himself as the scourge of the special interests — all on the drug lobby’s dime.
Campaign cash from the drug companies for Reid and others was always part of the deal. Tom Carper openly acknowledged in a Senate Finance Committee hearing that the Democrats were obligated to honor the deal that the White House made with PhRMA, because after all PhRMA was paying for it with “support through an advertising campaign” (see the video here).
How did Reid personally step up? Well, most notably he helpfully kept Byron Dorgan’s drug reimportation amendment off the floor for 7 days, despite the fact that Dorgan had the 60 votes he needed for cloture. Senate Democrats effectively had to filibuster their own health care bill for a week to do so, something they could not have done without Reid’s coordination.
During that time, the White House got HHS to write a letter behind Dorgan’s back saying that reimported drugs were unsafe. Many members in the Senate wanted cover for voting against the amendment, which the letter provided. Kay Hagan, Frank Lautenberg and others took to the floor and read from the letter in order to help kill the amendment. Majority Whip Dick Durbin actively whipped Joe Lieberman’s vote against it. By the time Reid allowed the Dorgan amendment on to the floor, PhRMA had successfully peeled off the votes to kill it.
Dorgan retired shortly thereafter, accusing White House political operatives of having written the HHS letter.
Of course Reid is getting big bucks from the drug companies. Reimportation alone could have saved consumers potentially hundreds of billions of dollars over the next ten years. Without Reid’s cooperation, reimportation would have been extremely difficult to kill. The drug companies owe him.