PhRMA Exports?

Posted September 12, 2003 at 4:18pm

The U.S. pharmaceutical industry and its Washington trade association have spent the past few months fighting legislation on Capitol Hill that would make it easier for Canada and other countries to export cheap, prescription drugs to the United States. [IMGCAP(1)]

But that’s not the only export problem facing the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturing Association these days.

During the past two years, more than a dozen senior officials have departed the industry’s lead lobbying arm.

Last week, communications adviser Bruce Lott became the latest PhRMA employee to bolt when he accepted a role at the rival Generic Pharmaceutical Association, where he will head the group’s state affairs shop.

Though the departures don’t seem to be hurting PhRMA effectiveness on Capitol Hill, insiders claim the constant turnover has left the association in turmoil.

“Dysfunction is how the place functions,” said one Washington insider familiar with the situation.

Predictibly, a PhRMA spokesman disputed the charge. “This is Washington, people move on from time to time,” said Ed Belkin, who himself joined PhRMA just a few months ago.

Belkin added that the association plans to announce a string of promotions and additions today.

Still, in the past six months alone, more than a dozen senior PhRMA employees have left the association, including a set of well-connected lobbyists. The biggest blow came in May, when GOP insider Mark Merritt left the association’s top communications post in order to head to the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, which represents pharmacy-benefits managers.

Merritt, who had been at the association for just a few months, took four other PhRMA employees with him. Other departures include two members of the associations’ international division, a pair from the federal affairs office — as well as lobbyist Missy Jenkins.

More than 100 employees work at the trade association. Still, employees say the turnover — particularly in the communications shop — has damaged PhRMA’s ability to get its message out.

A PhRMA spokesman did not return calls for comment. But their generic rivals were quick to highlight the disarray. “It’s got to be tough over there,” quipped Greg Howard, a spokesman for the generic drug industry.

Energizing Cash. A major consumer watchdog group is crying foul and calling for the heads of key GOP Members who are part of the House-Senate conference committee on the energy bill.

The group, Public Citizen, is critical of the amount of campaign cash that political action committees have pumped into the campaigns of energy bill conferees.

In a letter circulated last week, Public Citizen leveled charges of bribery against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), Energy and Commerce Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) on the still-smoldering controversy over language the lawmakers tried to insert into the legislation that would have singly benefited the Westar energy company.

Citing the Enron debacle, the manipulation of California energy markets and the recent blackout in the Northeast and Great Lakes states, the letter charged: “In some cases, the scandals have been the direct result of lax government oversight or legislative and regulatory exemptions that were obtained through lobbying and campaign contributions.”

The letter, which was sent to Tauzin and Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), urged that Tauzin and Barton leave the conference committee.

An analysis by PoliticalMoneyLine.com shows that energy conferees received nearly $900,000 in energy-related PAC contributions. Three top GOP members — Tauzin, Barton and House Resources Chairman Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) — garnered the most.

Tauzin received $106,313 in energy PAC dollars, Barton $70,756 and Pombo $61,293.

Other Members rolling in energy cash include Energy and Commerce ranking member Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) with $51,750; and Senate Budget Chairman Don Nickles (R-Okla.), $52,000.

Energy-related political action committees had $8.1 million and generated nearly $9.9 million. This year, the PACs doled out $8.3 million to candidates, PACs and parties. The PACs have $9.6 million in cash reserves.

More Asbestos Work. While there is no link between drinking soda and injesting harmful asbestos fibers (unless, of course, you enjoy injesting carbonated beverages in a contaminated area), PepsiAmericas Inc. has taken an interest in asbestos litigation issues. The second-largest Pepsi “anchor” bottling company has hired Van Scoyoc Associates to lobby on the Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act.