Consultant Arms Race

Posted February 2, 2007 at 6:22pm

It’s become Democrats versus Democrats in the ongoing battle between generic drug makers and their better-heeled name-brand opponents. [IMGCAP(1)]

And while the big-name pharmaceutical companies have the advantage of signing some of the higher-profile names in Democratic lobbying circles, the generic industry is fighting back by making some key hires of its own and quietly questioning how well the message of “Big Pharma” will resonate with Democrats on Capitol Hill.

“Even with the huge disparity in spending and body count, it’s a fair fight because Democrats on the Hill philosophically support the generics agenda,” said one lobbyist working that side.

In particular, the name brands want to halt a push by the generics for legislation that would allow for generic versions of treatments made through biotechnology.

Some of the top Democratic lobbyists, such as former Clinton administration officials Chuck Brain, Joel Johnson and Steve Ricchetti, represent the name-brand side through its trade association, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or its various members such as Amgen and Pfizer. That side also has Democratic insider Tony Podesta; Alan Roth, a former aide to Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.); and Nick Littlefield, a former top aide to Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.).

In the other corner, Israel’s Teva Pharmaceuticals just inked a deal, according to a recent lobbying filing, with Rich Tarplin, the Timmons and Co. lobbyist who served as assistant secretary for legislative affairs at Health and Human Services during the Clinton administration.

And the generic-backed Coalition for a Competitive Pharmaceutical Marketplace retained Jennings Policy Strategies, the firm run by Christopher Jennings, who was former President Bill Clinton’s senior health policy adviser. In addition to generic drug makers, the coalition also is backed by companies that want to see prescription drug prices lowered, such as General Motors Corp., Caterpillar, Ford Motor Co. and insurance plans.

Other Democrats working on the generics side include Michael Forscey and William Schultz, who both count Barr Laboratories as a client, according to lobbying disclosure reports.

“It’s sort of like we’re on an island,” said one Democratic lobbyist on the generics side. “But while we don’t have a lot of paid consultants working this issue, per se, we have a lot of support.”

One lobbyist with the name-brand side said there is some stigma to being a Democrat representing big drug companies.

“It’s a complicated relationship that has to be managed here,” this lobbyist said. “Democrats don’t want to stifle innovation. These are not two industries where you can pick one over the other. You need the resources and the

innovation of the name brands or there wouldn’t be a generic industry. They may have a friendlier audience going in, but the name-brand companies realize that we’ve got to work harder.”

Retail Politics. Grocery chain Safeway is now open for (legislative) business in Washington, D.C.

The company, based outside of Oakland, Calif., has hired Shannon Campagna as its vice president for federal government relations. She will start Safeway’s capital outpost and run its political action committee, SafePAC, which gave more than $400,000 in the 2006 cycle, with 45 percent to Democrats and 55 percent to GOP candidates.

“It’s time to have a stronger presence in Washington, D.C.,” said Kevin Herglotz, Safeway’s California-based government affairs chief and a former deputy chief of staff at the Agriculture Department in the Bush administration.

Herglotz said Safeway is watching a variety of legislative issues including the upcoming farm bill. Congressional Democrats also have indicated upcoming hearings focused on the grocery industry.

Campagna most recently served as vice president of government affairs for the Retail Industry Leaders Association. Before that, she was a lobbyist at the National Beer Wholesalers Association and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. She spent seven years on the staff of then-Rep. Mel Hancock (R-Mo.).

“We’re really excited to have her,” Herglotz said. “She has great relationships on both sides of the aisle.”

Safeway will keep lobbyists from Quinn Gillespie & Associates on retainer and continue to work through its associations such as the Food Marketing Institute, he said.

Lobby Coup. The former prime minister of Thailand, Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a coup in September while he was in New York, has added another heavy-hitting D.C. firm to his already-tony roster of recent hired guns (that is, the D.C. kind). Shinawatra tapped Baker Botts’ James Baker IV, son of former Secretary of State James Baker III, to represent him. He previously had signed Barbour Griffith & Rogers and the public relations firm Edelman.

Baker IV, who did not return a call seeking comment, heads Baker Botts’ D.C. office, while his father practices in Houston and Washington, D.C.

The lobbying report filed with the Senate said Baker Botts will “monitor the evolution of U.S. policies towards the interim government in Thailand” as well as the administration’s position on attempts “by Dr. Thaksin to return to Thailand.”

K Street Moves. The all-Democratic firm Elmendorf Strategies has added a new lobbyist, Shanti Stanton, who is a former director of federal government relations for UST Public Affairs and, like the firm’s founder, Steve Elmendorf, a former aide to then-House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.). The firm also has registered for several clients including Fannie Mae, Financial Services Forum, Ford Motor Co., The Hartford Financial Services Group, Northwest Airlines, United Healthcare Services and Verizon Wireless.

Even though Democrats might be all the rage, former Republican staffers still have plenty of hope. Jennifer Conklin, formerly a legislative staff assistant to defeated former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), is joining the health care practice at Venn Strategies. She will work with clients such as the University of Wisconsin Medical Foundation, Lifetouch and Amerinet. “She brings an important perspective to advancing our clients’ initiatives on a bipartisan basis on Capitol Hill,” said health practice head Anne Urban, a Democrat.

Timmons and Co., which lost Democratic lobbyists Joab Lesesne to media company Cox Enterprises and Dan Turton to the House Rules Committee, has added Dan Shapiro, who was deputy chief of staff and legislative director to Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).