Lawmakers read script written by biotech/drug giant's lobbyists

During the health care debate in congress, more than a dozen US lawmakers all parrotted talking points scripted for them by lobbyists working for biotech/drug giant Genentech. So what? Said one of those lobbyists, "This happens all the time. There was nothing nefarious about it."


    1. As a drug rep for the better part of 20 years, I’m still amazed at all the misconceptions of the pharm industry. Some criticisms are worthy and well founded. I personally do not like the amount of money spent on DTC advertising. I feel that money can be spent elsewhere and provide more value to the patient, but I’m not making the decisions. Until then I must work within the parameters that are set out for me.

      In regards to lobbying, I feel their usefulness is still viable. As a rep, I can only operate within a highly restricted and regulated paradigm of the First Amendment. My speech is restricted by my company AND the government (yes, I work under a retro-active prosecution clause set forth in an agreement by my company and the DEA). So, the only way we can get our voice heard on Capitol Hill is by utiliIizing lobbiests. Interestingly enough, we used to be able to take doctors out for meals, and so forth–just like the lobbiests do with congress people. Funny that congress hasn’t leveled the same rules on themselves that they did on us!

      Having an industry leader write a speech or talking points for lawmakers to reference is not a bad or evil thing. It’s done across the board. A person does not suddenly garner infinite knowledge upon winning an election. To get the information they need or want, they outsource and tap into other databases. In today’s day-in-age it makes sense the Republicans would reach out to big pharma and the Democrats to those that can back up their position.

      So, before you go out and bash big pharma completely, remember that we are still a capitalistic country, that U.S. big pharma discovers the majority of new drugs for the world (not the government or other public entities)- before you say we make too much money by developing treatments that keep people alive longer and out of the hospital, ask if the fast food giants or soft drink, and video game companies make too much profit by aiding in the increase in obesity?

      1. This is the problem. The big pharmaceutical companies, as you said, create all of the new “DRUGS”. I am well aware of the fact the drug companies are not in the “cure” business. I also know they do everything they can to prevent actual cures for diseases. Can someone tell me when the last time a disease was actually cured? If only one disease, say Diabetes, were to be cured the big drug companies would loose billions of dollars.

  1. Am I the only one who doesn’t understand why lobbying is not only legal but politically and socially acceptable? How is it, that those who have accumulated giant piles of money are legally permitted to buy our lawmakers lunches and gifts and hookers and eventually, with enough campaign contributions, buy their vote. Our country is supposed to be one vote per person, not one vote per million dollars.

    Is there any way to escape this deepening corporate oligarchy short of revolution? Are we a society that is even capable of revolution anymore?

  2. From my probably imperfect memory Lobbying came about because congress used to be inaccessible to the people. In the 60’s ish time frame it became legal so the voice of the people could be heard. The hippies and labor got the EPA and OSHA passed by lobbying then big business realized they had a bigger bankroll than the freaks, stepped in and took over.

    Feel free to correct me but that is my general recollection.

  3. The weird thing in this story is that Genentech isn’t even an evil company. When Rupert Murdoch is controlling government through lobbyists, it seems like it’s originating with Murdoch. When Genentech is doing it, it makes it look like you have to have your bribe in hand when you go to Washington because everyone in Congress will be standing there with their hands out.

  4. @zac, the answer unfortunately is no. Corporations have a two way stranglehold on the government. As long as politicians need millions of dollars to get elected, there’ll be a corporation willing to contribute if the politician supports their agenda, which oddly enough helps the corporation maximize their profits.

    Corporations aren’t inclined to listen to people anymore because they’ve outsourced a lot of their labor force to other countries where the payroll is less. Consumers, can’t or won’t stop buying products, because it means they’ll be inconvenienced. The labor unions once were the check on corporations and the government, but they’re no longer a threat

  5. I’m with Mac and MythicalMe. No real way to change it without revolution.

    if you make a rule in one direction the corperate bastages take advantage, make the rule in the opposite direction and they’ll still find a way to play it in their favor.

    Since the time of kings the biggest pile of money wins.

  6. From my position in the UK I simply don’t understand how the American public reconcile this with all their talk about Freedom and Democracy. Have no doubt the UK has plenty of problems itself, but this seems to be so blatant in its undermining of the democratic process. Why is this not a major talking point continuously, at least outside of the conservative media?

    1. Complacency, mingoid. Watching from a foreign perspective too (Canada), and I see it here as well. Not everyone is apathetic, but too many are easily lulled by the comforting gibberish spoon-fed to us every day by purveyors of poisoned food, bad medicine & modes of transportation that cause lung cancer.

  7. “One of the reasons I have long supported the U.S. biotechnology industry is that it is a homegrown success story that has been an engine of job creation in this country.”

    So was the chemical industry in Germany in the 1940s.

  8. Sadly, this kind of influence is hardly news on Capitol Hill. These lobbyists no doubt used “contacts” that had already accepted various contributions from them.

    In turn the Congressmen serve the lobbyist’s sponsor’s interests, including changing their votes, rewriting bills and even sponsoring legislation. By accepting the bribes, the Congressman stops working for citizens and becomes a tool of the lobbyists.

    Only the very rich or large Corporate interest can afford this. It’s expensive but opens new markets, create new business and make existing busines more profitable.

    And it has been going on for over 100 years. This is how we are being governed in the US. Consider the many negative consequences we face due to this “arrangement”.

  9. I can’t remember who said it first, but when legislators decide what can be bought and sold, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.

    Which is to say, it’s not, as MythicalMe has it, that “As long as politicians need millions of dollars to get elected, there’ll be a corporation willing to contribute…”, but, rather, that to the extent that politicians can dictate how corporations set their agendas, the people running corporations have an incentive to buy influence with politicians. This would be true even if it didn’t cost millions to get elected (e.g., at state and local levels of government).

    1. I smell Objectivism in your implication of blameless, unfairly interfered-with corporations simply struggling to adapt to the degenerate, statist conditions of our times.

      Corporate manipulation of government isn’t about reappropriating some stolen right to “set their [own] agendas.” Rent-seeking behavior, blackballing programs that would compete with or increase the costs of their businesses, etc. are all involved. Do you really think corporations don’t lobby for state-sponsored monopolies, price controls, and anti-competitive edicts? They’re lobbying for their own advantage, not the return to free market conditions.

      A rationally behaved corporation will continue to pay to influence government as long as it can get something profitable out of it. The essential problems, therefore, are that a) it’s possible to influence the political process through one’s wealth and b) the state possesses powers which can be used to the advantage or disadvantage of business. Since (b) is never going to change by the very nature and definition of the state, we have to change (a), through mandatory public campaign financing, anti-lobbying law, and term limits.

      1. Do you really think corporations don’t lobby for state-sponsored monopolies, price controls, and anti-competitive edicts? They’re lobbying for their own advantage, not the return to free market conditions.

        Agreed. Just like the consolidated banks, media, etc., the insurance companies like things the way they are and strive for even more consolidation. Consolidation drives up prices and they love it. Their top industry trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) says that competition abounds and they should be left alone.

        Also, the AHIP says on its Web site that there are nearly 1,300 insurance providers in the United States, covering more than 200 million Americans. So everything is fine.

        But this number includes many plans with the same parent company, not to mention the parent companies themselves. When you get down to it, in many markets, it’s more like two and monopolistic powers they enjoy.

        I don’t understand these apologists you keep finding on message boards for these guys. It’s like begging to be punched in the face. Maybe this is some form of S&M fetish for apologists, I dunno…. asking to be punished…

        Then again, maybe some of them are paid astro-turfers who have no soul. Either way…. sad.

  10. I think the important thing her, really is the lobbyist quote: “This happens all the time. There was nothing nefarious about it.”

    unless I get my meaning of “nefarious” wrong could it not be commonplace as well as nefarious?

  11. Why is this not a major talking point continuously, at least outside of the conservative media?

    Actually, I’m pretty sure it was the conservatives here who wailed the most about how restricting campaign financing was an imposition on free speech. It’s the reason why John McCain had such a prickly relationship with many Republicans before he became their presidential candidate.

    Personally I can see the need for lobbying to a certain extent, but that things have gotten way out of hand. I mean, let’s say you’re Company A that makes Widgets B and somebody else is, for whatever reason, trying to get some piece of legislation passed that will make Widgets B illegal, or prohibitively expensive, or whatever. So it seems only right that you should be able to pay somebody to put together a really snazzy presentation explaining why Widgets B are important and how hurt Company A will be by this legislation, how many of Company A’s workers will be out of jobs, how the things they’re saying about Widgets B are inaccurate, etc.

    But of course this can be taken to extreme, where legislators can become essentially bought and paid for if you’ve got enough money. That’s not good. And I don’t know enough about the subject to know how exactly one would word legislation that preserves the right of people to address their lawmakers without perverting that right.

  12. I mean, if the EFF were the lobby members of Congress in order to educate them on electronic freedom issues, that’d be cool, right? I’d still want my Congressman to think independently, though (I know, it’s idealistic…)

    1. I mean, if the EFF were the lobby members of Congress in order to educate them on electronic freedom issues, that’d be cool, right?

      And if pigs had wings, they could fly. Can you show us an example of a member of Congress reading a script written by the EFF?

  13. The more powerful the regulators, the more powerful the lobbyists. Making lobbying illegal doesn’t change the incentives. If the incentives are still there, the behavior will be too.

    It seems counter-intuitive, but weakening regulators/legislators is the only way to reduce crony capitalism.

  14. Can you show us an example of a member of Congress reading a script written by the EFF?

    No, I said “if.”

  15. “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Seriously, he’s always back there. It’s no big deal.”

  16. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with lobbying. The problem isn’t businesses with a direct financial conflict of interest making their case to legislators. The problem is that legislators maintaining their independence in the face of campaign contributions and guaranteed lucrative post-government job offers is a complete sham. We need to make government service restrictive enough to scare off the Billy Tauzin’s of the world. No lobbying jobs for any congressperson or their staff for at least 10 years after leaving office. Something like that would be a nice start.

  17. I fail to see what the big deal is here. If a member of congress is only parroting someone else’s biased talking points, the people of his district can vote him out of office. If they re-elect him, then they get the government they deserve.

    Why do people expect congressmen to be fair-minded independent thinkers? Fair-minded independent thinkers don’t run for office, and if they did they wouldn’t get elected.

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