Under the Influence of PhRMA?

Posted July 26, 2005 at 6:08pm

Lobbyists pushing for a major overhaul of the nation’s patent laws are in awe of — and more than a little bitter at — an apparent victory by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. [IMGCAP(1)]

The revamped PhRMA, headed by former Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.), got into the long-running debate in a big way this year. And it appears that the group’s efforts have paid off in a recent round.

A patent reform draft bill by Lamar Smith (R-Texas) previously contained provisions cheered by the high tech industry but eyed with concern by PhRMA.

Smith’s office on July 26 sent out a memo to interested industry groups alerting them that the Judiciary Committee would mark up a substitute bill on Friday — a bill that looked a lot like what PhRMA wanted, sources said.

Smith’s press secretary Blair Jones cautioned that no markup is scheduled and that the bill is still in draft form. “No final decisions have been made,” he said.

One high-tech lobbyist called the revamped draft “the lowest common denominator” that could lead the high-tech industry — one of the measure’s most vocal supporters — to ultimately oppose it.

“If this falls apart, it will be on the drug companies’ doorstep,” said the tech source, “because they made it their mission to stop any significant patent reform and right now this bill looks like they’ve scored a victory.”

But PhRMA spokesman Ken Johnson issued a statement saying, “It is our understanding that all negotiations concerning Rep. Lamar Smith’s patent reform bill are ongoing and that no final decisions have been made. The discussions we have been a part of have reflected the views of many different interests, including those of universities, the high-tech industry and the biotechnology industry among others.”

He’s Welcome. The pro-privatization student group Students for Saving Social Security ended their summer crash course on lobbying with a bang Tuesday.

About 150 students participating in the group crammed Room 450 in the Old Executive Office Building to hear a thank-you for their efforts from President Bush.

The president, who was introduced by White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and Treasury Secretary John Snow,

rallied the crowd for about 40 minutes.

Without discussing legislative specifics — or a sense of when he expects Congress to produce a bill — Bush pumped up his rapt audience on the benefits of personal accounts and the White House’s commitment to seeing their plan through.

“He was very upbeat and positive, sending a clear message to the kids their efforts are not going unnoticed,” said Jade West, a top lobbyist for the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors who helped organize the event.

Also represented at the event were members of COMPASS, the business coalition backing the president’s reform plan. Wade helps lead membership recruitment for the group.

Early efforts to take up Social Security reform in Congress foundered this year when the issue failed to gain traction publicly. Congressional Republicans, however, plan to continue working on the matter when they return from their August recess. And the White House, which has made reform a top domestic priority, is keeping up pressure on Congress to address problems with the federal retirement program.

Bush met with COMPASS to explain “why it was important to move forward on Social Security,” White House spokesman Trent Duffy said.

“The president remains committed to it and he is not going to give up,” he said.

Wade said Bush told the crowd he “hoped everybody in Washington could rise above politics, get together, not worry about who’s getting credit, and come to the table.”

Border Check. Huston-based J and D International Consulting Services recently filed documents with the Justice Department’s Foreign Registration Unit detailing its upcoming project to restructure a Mexican state police force.

J and D President Jim Steele, a platoon commander in the Vietnam War and former senior counselor to Coalition Provisional Authority leader Paul Bremer on Iraqi security forces, will oversee the project and facilitate collaboration between Mexican officials and U.S. Congressional lawmakers.

The company will work with local police officials and the governor of the Mexican state of Sonora in an effort to create a more effective and less corrupt police force.

A stronger police force in Sonora is not just important to Mexican security, said J and D Senior Vice President David Marold. Because the state shares a border with Arizona, an effective Sonora police force is vital to successful anti-terrorism and immigration policy in the United States as well, he said.

“We’re trying to assist the state of Sonora to make it a safer state,” as well as one that will be a partner in achieving U.S. anti-terror and immigration goals, Marold said.

Although similar to other projects that J and D has undertaken in Iraq and other parts of the world, the operation in Sonora is the company’s largest such operation in Latin America.

Washington (State) Returns to Washington. Three years after budget strains forced the closure of its Capitol Hill office, Washington state is reopening its D.C. outpost. Gov. Christine Gregoire (D-Wash.) has hired Doug Clapp, an aide to Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), to represent the state on funding and natural resource issues, the Tacoma News-Tribune reported this week.

“There are billions of dollars on the table, and this is a wise investment,” Gregoire spokeswoman Kerry Coughlin told the paper.

With the move, the state rejoins the roughly two-thirds of states that have lobbying offices in the nation’s capital.

Together Again. The Livingston Group is joining forces with Jim Albins, president of James H. Albins and Associates, in an affiliation designed to expand the Livingston Group’s reach in international relations and education and nonprofits.

As the former director of federal affairs for Louisiana State University, Albins shares home-state ties with founder and former Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.).

“My staff and I got to know him back when he opened the first LSU office in Washington, and we’re delighted we’ll be working together once again,” Livingston said in a statement.

K Street Moves. After five years with the all-GOP heavyweight lobby shop Barbour Griffith and Rogers, Carl Biersack, a former aide to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), has joined the firm Balch and Bingham as director of government affairs.

The National Federation of Independent Business has hired two lobbyists for its House team. Alix Crockett joins the small business lobby from the office of Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.), where she had been legislative director. And Michelle Dimarob is moving to her new position from the group’s press shop, where she has worked as a spokeswoman since 2004.

Elsewhere, Terri Claffey is leaving her post as a top lobbyist for MCI to become senior director of government relations for NeuStar Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based provider of telecommunications technology services. … The financial services organization TIAA-CREF is adding Danielle Simonetta to its lobbying team. Simonetta most recently served as a senior floor assistant to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).

Luke Mullins and Chris Cillizza contributed to this report.