December 17, 2004
Public Servants Cash-In with Drug Industry
The American Progress Action Fund writes that "Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-LA), one of the chief authors of the new Medicare prescription drug law, is set to become the new president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the chief lobbying organization for brand-name drug companies." What does he get in return, and what has he done for the lobby?
Tauzin could reap more than $2 million per year for selling out elderly Americans to drug interests. Tauzin raised huge sums from the drug companies while in Congress, taking in more than a quarter million dollars from the drug industry since 2000. All in all, he accepted more than $218,000 from drug makers over the past 15 years he's been in office. Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) summed it up, saying, "As a member of Congress, Billy negotiated a large payout to the pharmaceutical industry by the federal government. He's now about to receive one of the largest salaries ever paid to any advocate by an industry." Those in the business say they believe Tauzin will make at least $2 million a year, if not more, according to the New York Times.
Tauzin is not the first conservative leader to cash in on drug connections. Last year, the Bush administration's chief of Medicare, Tom Scully, obtained a waiver on a federal ethics rule in order to negotiate a job with the drug industry at the same time he was running the Medicare program. Scully, who threatened to fire the Medicare actuary if he revealed the much higher cost of the legislation to Congress, resigned to become a lobbyist for health care companies. And two top U.S. trade officials, Ralph Ives and Claude Burcky, both left their government jobs this past August to work for the same health care and drug industries they went to bat for in White House trade negotiations with Australia.
Conservative leaders should defend the interests of the American public rather than the bottom line of pharmaceutical giants. The Bush administration and its conservative allies have shown their priorities. Rather than making real reforms to reduce drug costs for seniors, they spend their time in office bilking Americans as they plan their exit strategy into the arms of grateful drug companies.