Sunday, July 29, 2007

60 Minutes report: The pernicious effect of lobbying

One of the recurring themes of this blog has been the pernicious effect lobbyists have on our government. While lobbying is necessary and is protected by the First Amendment's right to petition, I doubt seriously that our founding fathers were able to foresee a time when lobbyists would write critically important bills, pour millions into political campaigns, and consist in large part of former politicians or their aides.
Those factors, especially the revolving door between those who go from being elected representatives to working for special interests was explored tonight in a previously broadcast 60 Minutes segment:

Scully was the administration's lead negotiator on the prescription drug bill, and at the time was also negotiating a job for himself with a high-powered Washington law firm, where he became a lobbyist with the pharmaceutical industry.

"He was negotiating for his job at the same time that the Medicare legislation was being considered. He wound up taking this job 10 days after the president signed this legislation," says Pollack.

It is but one example of the incestuous relationship between Congress and the industry, and just one of the reasons the pharmaceutical lobby almost never loses a political battle that affects its bottom line.

Former Congressman Billy Tauzin, who helped push the prescription drug bill through the House, didn't disagree.

Has the bill been good for the drug industry?

"It's been good for the patients whom the drug industry represents …" Tauzin says. "In terms of profits — [for the drug companies] and volumes, yes."

Says Kroft: "Your old friend, John Dingell, says that of the 1,500 bills over the last eight years dealing with pharmaceutical issues, the drug companies almost, without exception, have gotten what they wanted."

"Yeah … I would think he's correct. They've done fairly well," replies Tauzin.

Why has this lobby been so successful? The former congressman says he believes it's because they stood for the right things.

If Tauzin sounds a lot like a lobbyist for the drug industry, that's because now he is.

It would not be hard to find multiple examples of this incestuous relationship in Washington or in Missouri.

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