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The Legacy of Billy Tauzin: The White House-PhRMA Deal

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IndianaGreen Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-14-10 03:57 PM
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The Legacy of Billy Tauzin: The White House-PhRMA Deal
The Legacy of Billy Tauzin: The White House-PhRMA Deal

Paul Blumenthal.
Posted: February 12, 2010 01:28 PM

For more research like this, visit the Sunlight Foundation's blog.

More than a million spectators gathered before the Capitol on a frosty January afternoon to witness the inauguration of Barack Obama, who promised in his campaign to change Washington's mercenary culture of lobbyists, special interest influence and backroom deals. But within a few months of being sworn in, the President and his top aides were sitting down with leaders from the pharmaceutical industry to hash out a deal that they thought would make health care reform possible.

Over the following months, pharmaceutical industry lobbyists and executives met with top White House aides dozens of times to hammer out a deal that would secure industry support for the administration's health care reform agenda in exchange for the White House abandoning key elements of the president's promises to reform the pharmaceutical industry. They flooded Congress with campaign contributions, and hired dozens of former Capitol Hill insiders to push their case. How they did it--pieced together from news accounts, disclosure forms including lobbying reports and Federal Election Commission records, White House visitor logs and the schedule Sen. Max Baucus releases voluntarily--is a testament to how ingrained the grip of special interests remains in Washington.


Central to this effort was PhRMA president, CEO and top lobbyist Billy Tauzin, a longtime Democratic member of Congress who switched party affiliations after Republicans gained control of Congress in 1994. By switching parties Tauzin was able to maintain his influence and even rose to be Chairman of the House Committee on Energy & Commerce. Tauzin became the poster child of Washington's mercenary culture. He crafted a bill to provide prescription drug access to Medicare recipients, one that provided major concessions to the pharmaceutical industry. Medicare would not be able to negotiate for lower prescription drug costs and reimportation of drugs from first world countries would not be allowed. A few months after the bill passed, Tauzin announced that he was retiring from Congress and would be taking a job helming PhRMA for a salary of $2 million.

Tauzin's job change became fodder for a campaign ad that then presidential candidate Barack Obama ran in the spring of 2008 simply titled "Billy." It featured the candidate, sleeves rolled up, talking to a salon of gasping Americans about the ways of Washington. "The pharmaceutical industry wrote into the prescription drug plan that Medicare could not negotiate with drug companies. And you know what, the chairman of the committee, who pushed the law through, went to work for the pharmaceutical industry making $2 million a year." The screen fades to black to inform the viewer that, "Barack Obama is the only candidate who refuses Washington lobbyist money," while the candidate continues his lecture, "Imagine that. That's an example of the same old game playing in Washington. You know, I don't want to learn how to play the game better, I want to put an end to the game playing."

Aiding PhRMA in their outreach to Congress would be a squadron of lobbyists to push their health care reform priorities. Over the course of 2009, the drug industry trade group spent over $28 million on in house and hired lobbyists. Aside from PhRMA's massive in-house lobbying operation, the trade group hired 48 outside lobbying firms. The total number of lobbyists working for PhRMA in 2009 reached 165. Some 137 of those 165 lobbyists representing PhRMA were former employees of either the legislative or executive branches. Of these dozens were former congressional staffers including two former chiefs of staff to Max Baucus.
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Captain Hilts Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-14-10 04:05 PM
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1. AND they continued funding anti-HCR ad campaigns. The White House got played. nt
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IndianaGreen Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-14-10 04:12 PM
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2. The White House didn't get played! They were in the deal from the gitgo!
It was Obama who nixed Single Payer from day one, and who sent his henchman Rahm to Congress to tell them to accept the deal that killed the public option.

What we got here are two wings of the same bird of prey.
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slipslidingaway Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-14-10 04:48 PM
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3. knr nt
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freddie mertz Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-14-10 04:59 PM
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4. K & R, and rec'd back to 1.
We need to know as much as possible about this deal.
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