Campaign 2010

Aug 25, 2006

Drug Companies to GOP: The Check is in the Mail

DCCC Press

Aug 25, 2006

Drug Companies to GOP: The Check is in the Mail

With News Breaking That Big Drug Companies Paid for the Chamber of Commerce’s Ad Campaign, American Families are Getting a Civics Lesson From the Special Interests

$77 Million Donations From Drug Companies to GOP Since GOP Gained Control of Congress

$10 Million Cost of Drug Industry-Funded Chamber Ad Campaign

$2,251 – $5,100 Range of Costs Left Uncovered by Medicare Part D

(Washington, D.C.) – The Associated Press reports today, that the pharmaceutical industry quietly paid for the recent ad campaign run by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. That ad campaign – a $10 million effort – was filled with inaccuracies and misleading statements. The Chamber was forced to take down four ads from stations in Washington State, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Ohio down during their nationwide campaign because of factual inaccuracies. This is just the latest evidence that the big drug companies have a vested interest in the flawed 2003 Medicare bill, in which the Republican Congress refused to add the power to negotiate for lower drug prices. The bill, as so many seniors now know, is confusing, expensive and clearly benefits the pharmaceutical companies and HMOs.

“There’s a civics lesson here from the drug companies. They write checks to protect their GOP friends, and then they write the laws to benefit themselves, all the while doctors are writing prescriptions middle class Americans can’t afford,” said Bill Burton, communications director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “This ad campaign, riddled with embarrassing missteps, is more of the same from the special interests who will go to any length to protect their best friends in Congress.”

A History of Drug Companies Protecting the GOP to Protect Their Profits. Even though the U.S. Chamber of Commerce claims to be responsible for the recent slew of TV ads, recent news reports show that the pharmaceutical industry paid the bill. According to the AP, “The officials who described PhRMA's involvement said they did not know whether the industry had given the Chamber money to cover the entire cost of the ads and other elements of an election-year voter mobilization effort, or merely a portion.” The PhRMA-funded ad campaign by the Chamber of Commerce was full of inaccuracies and four ads in the 10 states where they aired were pulled from television stations due to false claims. [AP, 8/25/06]

GOP Aides Admit Prescription Drug Strategy Helps PhRMA, Not Seniors. In 2002, the Washington Post Reported, “A senior House GOP leadership aide said yesterday that Republicans are working hard behind the scenes on behalf of PhRMA to make sure that the party's prescription drug plan for the elderly suits drug companies.” [Washington Post, 6/19/02]

Not the First Time: PhRMA has a History of Funding Ad Campaigns

2002: PhRMA Financed $4.6 Million USA Ad Campaign Touting GOP Prescription Drug Plan. In May 2002, the United Seniors Association (USA) launched a television ad campaign touting the House GOP prescription drug plan. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), a trade group representing major drug companies that has opposed past efforts to enact a Medicare prescription drug benefit, paid for the campaign. To date, USA has spent $4.6 million on the ads, which are running in 18 competitive Congressional districts nationwide. [Wall Street Journal, 6/18/02; Associated Press, 5/9/02; New York Times, 1/24/99]

  • USA Is Conservative Advocacy Group Aimed at Privatizing Medicare, Social Security. USA wants to “redesign and improve Social Security for the next generation with Personal Retirement Accounts” and “reform and keep Medicare solvent by creating a flexible new system of private health care coverage.” [United Seniors Association, About USA, http://www.unitedseniors.org]
  • USA President Lied About PhRMA Link to Ads. Charles Jarvis president of USA denied that PhRMA funded their ad campaign. “This is not a PhRMA buy. It is a national grass-roots buy,” Jarvis claimed. However, Jackie Cottrell, a spokeswoman for PhRMA, admitted they had recently given USA an “unrestricted educational grant” of undisclosed size. According to the Associated Press, “Several Republican officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they understood that the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) had provided the funds for the commercials.” [Associated Press, 5/9/02]

2002: PhRMA-Funded Ads Launched Shortly After Polling Memo Reveals GOP Prescription Drug Plan Is Motivated By Election Year Politics. USA announced its ad campaign one week after the GOP unveiled the outline of its prescription drug proposal and just two weeks after a Republican polling memo outlined their election year strategy on prescription drugs. The memo read:

  • “Right now, voters perceive the parties as headed toward a match-up of Republicans on taxes and terrorism versus Democrats on economy, education, and the elderly. We need more than just taxes/terrorism to win.
  • The Republican positioning on the prescription drug issue is a break-even proposition . . . Which is all we need to neutralize a Democrat advantage if we instead do nothing on this issue
  • Republicans passing a prescription drug benefit would go a long way to leaving Democrats with very little on the table to try to use against us.” [,u>AP, 5/8/02; Public Opinion Strategies (R), Hill Briefing, 4/25/02]

Questionable Motives, Repeated Incompetence Stains 2006 Ad Campaigns

2006: Trail of Incompetence as Chamber of Commerce Forced to Change Large Portions of the False Ads. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce mistakenly ran ads praising Republican incumbents Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Dave Reichert (R-WA) and Mike Sodrel (R-IN) for supporting Medicare legislation that was passed before they were elected. The Chamber also ran an ad praising Steve Chabot (R-OH) who voted against Medicare Part D. The Chamber was forced to change the language in the ad because these members of Congress did not vote on this issue. The ad falsely claims: “Reichert supported the Medicare Part D Law...” and “thanks to Dave Reichert, 713,000 Washington seniors now benefit from drug coverage…” Reichert, along with Fitzpatrick, and Sodrel were not in Congress at the time.

2006: More Mistakes Throughout Ad Campaign. Rep. Sodrel said in 2004 that he would not have voted for the Medicare program even though the Chamber ads claim he was responsible for its passage. Rep. Chabot voted against the Medicare bill and the chamber gave him credit as well. The Medicare program has turned out to be confusing, expensive and is already causing some seniors to lose their prescription drug coverage. [,u>Congress Daily, 8/1/06; Associated Press, 8/1/06]

2006: Four Chamber of Commerce Ads Pulled, Citing False Facts. In the last week, four of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s television ads were taken off the air due to factual inaccuracies. In praising Republican incumbents for supporting the Medicare prescription drug program passed in 2003, the Chamber included three members of Congress who were not elected until November of 2004. They are Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Dave Reichert (R-WA) and Mike Sodrel (R-IN). Sodrel said later that he would have voted against the Medicare legislation, further calling into question the credibility of this ad campaign. The fourth ad proved problematic for the Chamber because Congressman Steve Chabot (R-OH) actually voted against the 2003 legislation. These inaccuracies undermine the competence and credibility of the Chamber of Commerce after they dumped $10 million into these television ads. [Congress Daily, 8/1/06; Associated Press, 8/1/06]