Sunday, November 15, 2009

Corporate Ventriloquism

Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake had a dustup a few weeks ago with Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) over an amendment to H.R. 3200 that Eshoo sponsored governing the licensing of biologic drugs. Hamsher, a three-time breast cancer survivor, contended that a loophole allowed manufacturers to extend their twelve-year exclusive license to drugs by making minor tweaks to the molecules.

Eshoo got testy about being called out, saying, “My amendment prohibits by its plain language exactly what Ms. Hamsher alleges it would encourage.” But other experts contended that Eshoo didn’t understand the “plain language” of her own amendment, that it said just the opposite of what she thought. Also, Energy and Commerce chair Henry Waxman’s statements supported Jane’s contention that the provision contained a loophole that allowed Big Pharma to “evergreen” its exclusive licenses to biologic medications.

This morning, Marcy Wheeler pointed to an NYT piece describing the pushback from Big Pharma. They worked at getting congresscritters from both sides of the aisle to enter their talking points into the Congressional Record:

Statements by more than a dozen lawmakers were ghostwritten, in whole or in part, by Washington lobbyists working for Genentech, one of the world’s largest biotechnology companies.

E-mail messages obtained by The New York Times show that the lobbyists drafted one statement for Democrats and another for Republicans.


Genentech, a subsidiary of the Swiss drug giant Roche, estimates that 42 House members picked up some of its talking points — 22 Republicans and 20 Democrats, an unusual bipartisan coup for lobbyists.


Members of Congress submit statements for publication in the Congressional Record all the time, often with a decorous request to “revise and extend my remarks.” It is unusual for so many revisions and extensions to match up word for word. It is even more unusual to find clear evidence that the statements originated with lobbyists.

It would be nice to see those e-mails, by the way. It makes you wonder who wrote the “plain language” for Eshoo’s anti-evergreening amendment.

(Full disclosure: This writer has had Roche as a client.)

(cross-posted from Scrutiny Hooligans)

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