[Pharm-policy] US Chamber of Commerce Defends GOP on Health Issues
Mon, 9 Oct 2000 11:03:44 -0400 (EDT)
October 6, 2000, WSJ
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Defends GOP on Health Issues
By JIM VANDEHEI and TOM HAMBURGER
Staff Reporters of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
WASHINGTON -- In an effort underwritten substantially by drug companies,
the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will spend as much as $20 million between
now and Election Day defending Republicans on a range of health-care
By funneling money through the Chamber, the pharmaceutical industry
hopes to counter a drive by the Clinton administration and congressional
Democrats to create a Medicare prescription-drug benefit and to help
elect political candidates -- mostly Republicans -- who favor a
nongovernmental solution to the problem of high drug costs.
The Chamber's salvo is just the latest example of the unprecedented sums
flowing into issue ads in an effort to influence this year's elections.
Since the ads don't directly advocate the election or defeat of a
specific candidate, they aren't subject to federal election-law
The drug industry already has spent at least $35 million on its own ads
through Citizens for Better Medicare, a group created and largely funded
by pharmaceutical interests. Some industry officials feel that because
it has a strong local presence through local chapters around the
country, the Chamber has more credibility with voters and greater
freedom to run hard-hitting ads.
The ad campaign began this week in Michigan, a battleground state for
the presidential and congressional elections, and next week will extend
to more than a dozen states. In Minnesota, the Chamber plans to spend $2
million over the next four weeks, according to a congressional candidate
who is tracking ad buys there.
Bruce Josten, the top lobbyist for the Chamber, confirmed that the
organization plans to spend "multiple millions of dollars" on the
campaign, and that he "solicited pharmaceutical companies" for money.
The companies involved in the early planning discussions included Eli
Lilly & Co., Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and several others.
The campaign is designed to defend Republican candidates who have been
hit hard with TV ads financed by the AFL-CIO and Democratic Party.
Democrats and their allies have made prescription drugs the top issue of
this year's elections. "The business community cannot concede the
playing field," Mr. Josten said.
In Michigan, GOP Sen. Spencer Abraham, a top Democratic target this
fall, has been battling his opponent over the issue of prescription
drugs. The Chamber is running ads in Detroit, Lansing and Grand Rapids.
"Call Debbie Stabenow," one ad says, "and tell her Michigan doesn't want
the bad medicine she is prescribing."
-- Greg Hitt contributed to this article.
Write to Jim VandeHei at firstname.lastname@example.org and Tom Hamburger and