November 1, 2011
By Adam Cohen
The Occupy Wall Street movement is shining a spotlight on how much influence big-money interests have with the White House and Congress. But people are not talking about how big money is also increasingly getting its way with the courts, which is too bad. It’s a scandal that needs more attention. A blistering new report details how big business and corporate lobbyists are pouring money into state judicial elections across the country and packing the courts with judges who put special interests ahead of the public interest.
A case in point: West Virginia. In 2007, the West Virginia Supreme Court, on a 3-2 vote, threw out a $50 million damage award against the owner of a coal company. Funny thing: the man who would have had to pay the $50 million had spent $3 million to help elect the justice who cast the deciding vote. The West Virginia ruling was so outrageous that in 2009 the United States Supreme Court overturned it. But that was unusual. In most cases, judges are free to decide cases involving individuals and groups that have paid big money to get them elected.
(MORE: Justice on Display: Should Judges Deliberate in Public?)
So who is paying? The new study – by New York University Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice, the National Institute on Money in State Politics, and the Justice at Stake Campaign, a non-partisan reform group – found that a small group of super spenders plays the biggest role, using their money to buy the kind of judges they want hearing their cases. These super spenders are the usual suspects: mainly big business, corporate lobbyists, and trial lawyers. Also high on the list: a disturbing category called “unknown.” In many states, disclosure laws are so weak that special interests can buy judicial elections without the public even finding out.
There is also a lot of one-issue money sloshing around. In 2010, three Iowa Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of gay marriage were voted out of office – after a bitterly fought campaign dominated by money from out-of-state groups like the National Organization for Marriage and the American Family Association. Much of the special interest money is used for attack ads, which leverage hot-button issues to demonize judicial candidates. Has a sitting judge ever reversed a criminal conviction because the law was not followed? Then they must be soft on crime – and not care about victims.
Why does all this matter? Because as money floods into judicial elections, we are getting courts that are filled with judges whose first loyalty is not to justice – or to the general public – but to insurance companies, big business and other special interests. It’s not hard to guess what insurance companies want their judges to do. They want them to rule against people who have been injured – even when they deserve compensation, and they want damage awards to be slashed. Big business wants weak enforcement of laws against discrimination and pollution. On the other side of the political spectrum, trial lawyers want verdicts for plaintiffs – and large damage awards.
October 28, 2011
By Stephanie Condon
President Obama’s re-election campaign is pushing back against a New York Times report that suggests Mr. Obama may not be meeting his own standards when it comes to keeping corporate lobbyists out of his campaign.
At least 15 of Mr. Obama’s “bundlers” — supporters who collect donations from multiple people on behalf of a campaign in order to generate big donations without violating the law — work in the lobbying industry though they are not technically registered as federal lobbyists, the Times reports. These key supporters, with ties to heavy-hitting industries like telecommunications and pharmaceuticals, have raised more than $5 million so far for Mr. Obama’s re-election.
Their fundraising seems to contradict the spirit of Mr. Obama’s pledge to not take money from lobbyists. The president’s campaign, however, says the New York Times story “misses the forest for the trees.”
From the day he announced his 2008 presidential bid, Mr. Obama hasn’t accepted a dime from registered lobbyists or political action committees, Obama campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt said in a statement. Furthermore, LaBolt pointed out, Mr. Obama has led the way in disclosing the names of major volunteer fundraisers.
This all stands in contrast, he added, to the Republican presidential campaigns, which readily accept donations from lobbyists.
“Reducing the influence of special interests over the policymaking process won’t happen overnight–there are many institutional forces fighting tooth and nail to make sure that it does not,” LaBolt said. “But every step of the way, the president has promoted reform while candidates like Mitt Romney have thrown up their arms and attempted to thrive off the system as it is.”
While the 15 bundlers cited by the Times may not meet the technical criteria to be registered lobbyists, the influence they wield in Washington on behalf of their business interests is clear. Sally Susman, for instance, is an executive who leads the lobbying shop for the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, though she’s not technically a lobbyist herself. She’s raised more than $500,000 for Mr. Obama’s re-election and helped organize a $35,800-a-ticket dinner the president attended.
The rewards for several of Mr. Obama’s bundlers have been handsome, a June report showed. Eighty percent of the bundlers who raised $500,000 or more for Mr. Obama in the 2008 election ended up in “key administration posts,” in the words of the White House, according to a study from the Center for Public Integrity.
Still, Mr. Obama’s efforts to keep corporate interests out of his campaign extend far beyond any efforts his opponents are making.
In fact, the Washington Post reported this week that “K Street is playing an increasingly central role in the 2012 presidential race, as hundreds of lobbyists representing some of the world’s largest corporations and trade groups pour money into Republican coffers.”
More than 100 registered lobbyists have contributed to Mitt Romney, giving nearly $200,000 in direct donations to the former Massachusetts governor, the Post reported. Meanwhile, lobbyist bundlers have collected $1 million for his campaign.
April 5th, 2011
Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel
By: Daniel Bice
Just in his mid-20s, Brian Deschane has no college degree, very little management experience and two drunken-driving convictions.
Yet he has landed an $81,500-per-year job in Gov. Scott Walker’s administration overseeing environmental and regulatory matters and dozens of employees at the Department of Commerce. Even though Walker says the state is broke and public employees are overpaid, Deschane already has earned a promotion and a 26% pay raise in just two months with the state.
How did Deschane score his plum assignment with the Walker team?
It’s all in the family.
His father is Jerry Deschane, executive vice president and longtime lobbyist for the Madison-based Wisconsin Builders Association, which bet big on Walker during last year’s governor’s race.
The group’s political action committee gave $29,000 to Walker and his running mate, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, last year, making it one of the top five PAC donors to the governor’s successful campaign. Even more impressive, members of the trade group funneled more than $92,000 through its conduit to Walker’s campaign over the past two years.
Total donations: $121,652.
That’s big-time backing from the homebuilders.
The younger Deschane didn’t respond to questions about his job.
But his father said he doesn’t think his group’s financial support of the first-term Republican helped his son in his job search.
“He got the position himself,” said Jerry Deschane, who returned to the trade group in September after a hiatus during which he worked as an independent lobbyist for many groups, including the builders association. “I didn’t get it for him.”
One Walker critic isn’t buying it.
State Rep. Brett Hulsey called Deschane’s appointment another case of the new administration using state jobs to repay various industries.
Hulsey said he was unimpressed with the younger Deschane’s résumé, including his lack of environmental or management experience.
“It doesn’t look like he’s ever had a real job,” the Madison Democrat said.
Hulsey noted that the recently approved law that made collective bargaining changes converts 37 top agency attorneys, communications officials and legislative liaisons from civil service positions to jobs appointed by the governor.
“This is an example of the quality of candidates you’re going to get,” said Hulsey, owner of the consulting firm Better Environmental Services.
According to his résumé, Deschane, 27, attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison for two years, worked for two Republican lawmakers – then-Sens. David Zien and Cathy Stepp, now the natural resources secretary – and helped run a legislative and a losing congressional campaign. He held part-time posts with the Wisconsin Builders Association and the Wisconsin Business Council until being named to his first state gig earlier this year.
Deschane’s father said that during the gubernatorial contest he might have reminded Keith Gilkes, Walker’s campaign manager and now chief of staff, that his son “was out there and available.”
“I put in good words for every one of my children in their jobs,” said the elder Deschane. “But that would be the extent of it.”
David Carlson, spokesman for the Department of Regulation and Licensing, confirmed that Gilkes recommended Deschane for an interview with the agency. Deschane’s name does not appear on a list of job applicants with Walker’s transition team, but the governor’s office confirmed that Gilkes interviewed Deschane for a state job in December.
A month later, Secretary David Ross, a Walker cabinet member, named Deschane the bureau director of board services, a job that paid $64,728 a year.
Not long after, lawmakers approved the governor’s plan to convert the Department of Commerce to a public-private hybrid in charge of attracting and retaining businesses, with its regulatory and environmental functions being moved to other agencies.
Commerce Secretary Paul Jadin then appointed Deschane to his new post there to oversee the changes.
“It was felt that he would be helpful in working through the transition issues,” said Commerce Department spokesman Tony Hozeny.
The move meant a pay raise of more than $16,500 a year for Deschane, even though he had put in only a couple of months with the state.
Deschane’s father said his group doesn’t lobby or work with his son’s division, which deals primarily with regulating underground storage tanks and petroleum tanks and products. Hozeny said the younger Deschane will be expected to abide by state ethics rules in dealing with family members.
A spokesman for the governor said Walker’s team was aware of Deschane’s two drunken-driving convictions, the most recent of which occurred in 2008.
“We . . . felt he had changed his habits and that these past incidents would in no way affect his performance at this job,” said Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie.
Deschane’s father acknowledged that his son had made “foolish” decisions in the past, but he argued that the Walker administration was influenced by the younger Deschane’s strong résumé.
“He’s a bright young man,” the father said.
Michael McCabe, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign and a regular critic of Walker, said he’s not surprised officials claim the builders association’s contributions had no impact on the hiring. No politician concedes being influenced by campaign donations, McCabe said.
But he said it’s hard to reach any other conclusion in this case.
“It has all the markings of political patronage,” McCabe said.
January 10th, 2011
By: Mike Adams
As yet more proof that Big Pharma corruption crosses all political lines, Republicans are now considering putting a Pfizer lobbyist, Maria Cino, into the top position at the RNC. Cino was a strong supporter of Obama’s health care reform and yet is a favorite pick of former Vice President Dick Cheney. She’s also been helped by House Speaker John Boehner. GOP strategist Mary Matalin even hosted a fundraiser for her.
Cino was active in the Bush Administration which, as NaturalNews regularly reported over the years, was deeply corrupted by Big Pharma’s profit interests. It was the Bush Administration, for example, that structured a deal with Big Pharma to actually remove the ability of the federal government to negotiate bulk price discounts with the drug companies. This is part of the reason why Medicare is so expensive today: The Bush Administration locked in monopoly pricing for the drug giants, including the very same drug company (Pfizer) for which Maria Cino had lobbied.
Pfizer, by the way, pushed the hardest for passage of Obamacare reforms. As the Wall Street Journal reports, Pfizer CEO Jeffrey Kindler was keen to see Obamacare become law:
“In 2009 Pfizer became the fourth largest federal lobbyist, spending nearly $25 million. The strategy: The industry would pledge $80 billion to reform. In return it would get greater volume and a requirement that people buy brand-name drugs. Democrats would also fight against drug reimportation and forgo price controls. No one pushed harder than Mr. Kindler. The CEO made no fewer than five trips to the White House last year. He was the man prodding Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America head Billy Tauzin every step. He wrote an op-ed with the SEIU’s Mr. Stern demanding reform. He pressed the industry’s $150 million ad campaign promoting ObamaCare, rolled out with liberal activist groups.”
The illusion of a two-party system
So how could the RNC be headed up by a political operative named Maria Cino who openly lobbied for Pfizer and pushed for Obama’s health care reform? The answer is simpler than you think: What we are witnessing here is yet more evidence of the illusion of a two-party political system in America. Regardless of whether a politician is a Democrat or Republican, they all answer to the corporations.
America is no longer a democracy as much as it is an Oligarchy, where the wealthy elite control both the global corporate interests and the national political agendas. People like Maria Cino are mere pawns in this global power struggle that seeks to control the world’s economies, banking systems, health care systems and media outlets while squashing independent thought (and natural medicine, for that matter).
October 22nd, 2010
The Washington Post
By: Cecilia Kang
Apple CEO Steve Jobs met with President Obama on Thursday in a rare connection for the nation’s most valuable high-tech company that has been purposefully shy of Beltway culture.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the meeting took place during Obama’s visit to San Francisco and the two discussed energy independence and ways to increase job creation.
“They discussed American competitiveness and education, especially reforms such as the President’s Race to the Top initiative,” Gibbs said in a statement.
Earlier, Gibbs told reporters traveling on Air Force One from Seattle to San Francisco that it was “a meeting the president was interested in having.” The last time they met was during Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008. Later in the day, White House pool reporters said Obama gave a Democratic party fundraiser speech at the Palo Alto home of Google executive Marissa Mayer.
Apple, despite its size and growing reach into new businesses — mobile phone software and devices, television and music — has a decidedly small lobbying and policy operation in Washington. The company spent $340,000 in lobbying in the last quarter, a fraction of the amount that competitor Microsoft and telecom giant AT&T spend.
Apple has about four lobbyists, headed by Cathy Novelli. a former assistant U.S. Trade Representative. Apple has contracted Paul Margie, a partner at Wiltshire & Grannis, to press the Federal Communications Commission on communications policies.
But those issues — including lobbying on a requirement for devices to contain an aid for the hearing impaired — are few and not at the top of the agency’s agenda, even as Apple sits at the center of many policy issues, analysts said. Apple’s exclusive deal with AT&T to sell and operate the popular iPhone has sparked criticism from smaller carriers, which say they don’t have the scale to attract similar deals. The FCC also questioned why voice application Skype was blocked on the iPhone.
The Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission reviewed practices by the company that were criticized as anti-competitive. Justice settled its probe of Apple and high-tech firms for agreeing to keep wages down by not hiring from one another. The FTC looked into a complaint by Adobe that Apple was blocking its Flash software and unfairly harming its business through its control over the iPhone applications store. Apple ended up relaxing its rules for applications developers.
With $51 billion in cash and a drive to make acquisitions, observers said Apple will face increased interest by lawmakers and regulators. Apple’s stock is approaching the value of Exxon Mobile as the most valued U.S. public company.
“One of the advantages Apple has enjoyed in terms of antitrust scrutiny is that it has remained a small yet successful and profitable player in market,” said Andy Gavil, an antitrust law professor at Howard University. “It has received more attention recently because of the popularity of the iTunes store and the iPhone.”
The company, like many Silicon Valley firms before it, has kept a skeptical eye on Washington policy and legislation except for issues directly related to its products such as patent law reform, taxes and trade.
But analysts say the company may not be able to keep its distance for too long.
“They are probably going to move in the direction of Google, which was also initially dismissive of Washington and the inside-the-Beltway issues,” said Rebecca Arbogast of Stifel Nicolaus. “But they are now at the vortex of some key issues at the FCC and FTC that they will need to move forward on.”
June 25, 2010
By: Timothy P. Carney
Maybe a $150 billion company with 21,000 employees and 20 percent profit margins doesn’t count as big business or a special interest if it talks about “changing the world from the bottom up, not from the top down,” as President Obama put it.
Maybe a millionaire who spends his days leaning on policymakers to benefit his company isn’t a lobbyist if he calls himself an “Internet evangelist.”
Or maybe Google’s cozy relationship with the White House — exposed more clearly by e-mails recently made public through the Freedom of Information Act — is just one more instance of the administration’s actions contradicting Obama’s reformer rhetoric about battling the special interests and freeing Washington from lobbyist influence.
Consumer Watchdog, a liberal nonprofit, used FOIA to obtain e-mails between White House Deputy Chief Technology Officer Andrew McLaughlin and his former colleagues at Google. McLaughlin was Google’s head of global public policy and government affairs, up until he joined the White House.
Despite the job title, McLaughlin wasn’t a registered lobbyist. Still, ethics rules created by an Obama executive order prohibit McLaughlin from “participat[ing] in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to” Google. But the e-mails show McLaughlin has been involved with formulating policy that directly affects Google, regularly trading e-mails with Google’s “evangelist,” and lobbyist.
The topic of net neutrality — where the Obama administration and Google share a pro-regulation position that would profit Google — appears repeatedly in McLaughlin-Google e-mails.
When one news report suggested the White House was backing away from the pro-Google regulations, Google Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf wrote a worried note to McLaughlin, asking, “Has there been so much flack from the Hill that you guys feel a need to back away?”
McLaughlin reassured his former colleague, “Don’t be silly. No one’s backed away from anything.”
Later, when McLaughlin took heat in the media for publicly comparing AT&T — Google’s rival in the net neutrality debate — to the communist Chinese government, Google lobbyist Alan Davidson sent McLaughlin a heads up that a reporter had called Google about it. Davidson assured McLaughlin that he would get the Open Internet Coalition — a pro-net-neutrality lobby headed by Google — to “have your back.”
“Thanks,” McLaughlin wrote back. Davidson followed up the next day, taking credit for killing the story.
McLaughlin knew he was barred from dealing with Google, the e-mails show. When Cerf passed him an e-mail about Google Earth and an issue regarding a border dispute in Cambodia, McLaughlin responded, “in my current position, I’m recused from anything having to do with Google.”
When I asked the White House about McLaughlin’s e-mails, Rick Weiss, a spokesman at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, responded that McLaughlin’s “e-mails to Vint did not run afoul of the pledge since Vint is a federal advisory committee member with whom Andrew is allowed to communicate on matters of relevance to that committee.”
But Cerf was using a Google.com e-mail address and writing about regulations Google was aggressively backing.
And only when I followed up with a question about the e-mails with lobbyist Davidson did Weiss admit “they did violate the President’s Ethics Pledge,” and note that McLaughlin had been reprimanded.
But what else is McLaughlin working on that directly affects his former colleagues with whom he is in regular contact? It’s hard to imagine many tech issues that don’t directly affect Google, and so it’s hard to imagine very many issues McLaughlin could work on that don’t clash with Obama’s ethics rules.
McLaughlin’s role is only one strand in the web of Google-Obama connections.
Google trailed only Goldman Sachs and Microsoft as a source of funds for Obama in 2008, providing $803,000 — 40 times what Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain raised from the company. Google chief executive Eric Schmidt was a fundraiser and adviser for Obama’s campaign.
Obama speaks a lot about battling the special interests. But, evidently, his friends don’t count.
June 2, 2010
By Chris Frates
Foreign banks are flexing newfound muscle in Washington, spreading their money and influence while winning government business that’s off-limits to their politically toxic American cousins.
While Congress and President Barack Obama have been bashing big American banks as the cause of the nation’s economic troubles, foreign banks have been quietly increasing their presence in Washington with unprecedented lobbying and campaign spending.
The foreign companies have found a lucrative niche, essentially acting as brokers for the federal government’s bailout money. Domestic banks with the size and expertise for that role are largely banned from competing for the contracts because they have been recipients of the emergency funds.
“There is tremendous opportunity for the foreign banks, and it makes an enormous amount of sense for them to build up their lobbying power in Washington,” said Dick Bove, a financial strategist at the research firm Rochdale Securities.
“The foreign banks have come to Washington to take advantage of the shift in financial business that’s occurring in this country because of the anti-financial sentiment of the American government,” Bove said. “There is an opportunity here. They got the money. They got the freedom to operate. And we need the money, and we’re constricting the ability of our banks to function.”
Put simply, he said, “everything is right for them to come in and pick the bones of American banks.”
Like U.S. banks, the lobbyists are also engaged in monitoring and influencing the Wall Street reform legislation working its way through Congress, which has huge ramifications for the industry. The Institute of International Bankers, a foreign bank trade group, spent $810,000 lobbying last year, almost twice its 2008 total.
“Everybody has upped their game. We’re not alone,” a lobbyist for a foreign bank said. “We always have to watch for anti-foreign sentiment. The issues are meaty. The discussion is, shall we say, lively.”
And so is the spending.
Deutsche Bank spent more than it ever has on lobbying last year with close to $1 million flowing out of its one-man, in-house lobbying shop. And the seven-year old operation is on track to top that spending this year, having spent close to $750,000 in the first quarter alone.
The money has bought the services of Washington veterans Peter Madigan, a former Treasury official under President Ronald Reagan, and Jeffrey Peck, a former Senate aide to Vice President Joe Biden.
But the spending of the Frankfurt-based bank so far this year is only about half JPMorgan Chase’s 2010 lobbying bill. The U.S. bank’s $1.5 million tab makes it the top-spending American commercial bank, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a government watchdog group that tracks political spending.
Still, Deutsche’s comparatively modest advocacy budget appears to be paying off.
The German bank was selected in an open-bidding process to auction the stock options of 11 banks on behalf of the Treasury Department. After the banks repaid their bailout money, Treasury needed to sell the stock options it had been given in exchange for its investments. When Treasury and the banks couldn’t come to terms on a price, Treasury hired Deutsche to auction them off to investors, netting the government at least $3.2 billion.
For its work, Deutsche hauled in a total commission valued at no less than $40.6 million.
“The foreign banks have built up their presence in Washington over the last five years, and they’re winning business,” a financial services lobbyist said. “They’re taking advantage of the fact that they’re not thought of as Wall Street. They’re below the radar screen because nobody’s ever heard of Barclays or Deutsche Bank.”
Barclays, based in Britain, has also been beefing up its lobbying presence. Six years ago, it spent $340,000 and had two registered lobbyists, according to CRP. Last year, it spent about $2.8 million paying a baker’s dozen of lobbyists from firms such as the Rich Feuer Group.
April 6, 2010
By: Gary Ruskin
Today, President Obama announced that he will recess appoint Islam A. Siddiqui to the position of Chief Agricultural Negotiator, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
Siddiqui is a pesticide lobbyist and Vice President for Science and Regulatory Affairs at CropLife America, an agribusiness lobbying group that represents Monsanto.
Following is a letter sent by 98 organizations to U.S. Senators in opposition to Siddiqui’s appointment, and a fact sheet about him.
The following 98 organizations are writing you to express our opposition to the nomination of Islam Siddiqui as Chief Agriculture Negotiator at the office of the United States Trade Representative. Our organizations— representing family farmers, farmworkers, fishers and sustainable agriculture, environmental, consumer, anti-hunger and other advocacy groups—urge you to reject Dr. Siddiqui’s appointment when it comes up for a floor vote, despite the Senate Finance Committee’s favorable report of his nomination on December 23, 2009.
Siddiqui’s record at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and his role as a former registered lobbyist for CropLife America (whose members include Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont and Dow), has revealed him to consistently favor agribusinesses’ interests over the interests of consumers, the environment and public health (see attached fact sheet). We believe Siddiqui’s nomination severely weakens the Obama Administration’s credibility in promoting healthier and more sustainable local food systems here at home. His appointment would also send an unfortunate signal to the rest of the world that the United States plans to continue down the failed path of high-input and energy-intensive industrial agriculture by promoting toxic pesticides, inappropriate seed biotechnologies and unfair trade agreements on nations that do not want and can least afford them.
February 12th, 2010
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) President and CEO Billy Tauzin said late Thursday he was resigning effective June 30 after five years as head of one of the most powerful lobby groups in Washington.
The group, which represents Pfizer, Merck and other top drugmakers, has been one of the biggest backers of Democrats’ legislation to expand access to health insurance, among other reforms.
“The bottom line is: this is not good for the (healthcare) bill,” said lobbying expert James Thurber, head of the Center for Congressional and Presidential studies at American University. “PhRMA played a key role and without Billy Tauzin, who is trusted by both parties, there … it doesn’t help the cause for getting the reform through.”
PhRMA pledged to pay $80 billion over 10 years in price cuts and other concessions as part of a deal with the Obama administration and top Senate Democrats last June. The cost was seen as a small price for the $315 billion drug industry to pay in exchange for potentially 30 million more insured customers.
In a statement, Tauzin said he had committed to serve PhRMA for more than five years and would meet his obligation this June.
Still, his departure adds uncertainty to the future of Democratic legislation currently stalled in Congress and PhRMA’s deal. Despite the industry’s backing, Democrats are struggling to find a path forward to pass a final measure after losing their supermajority in the Senate last month.
Tauzin, who served 26 years in the U.S. House of Representatives first as a Democrat before switching to the Republican party, was the major force behind PhRMA’s deal. His group reported spending $26,150,520 in 2009 for lobbying, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
“His members think he gave away the farm for nothing. So he was really tossed because of a falling out with the board over miscalculating how to negotiate,” a source familiar with the situation said.
Another industry source, however, said Tauzin’s move was not linked to reform but rather a personality clash between the former Louisiana lawmaker and incoming PhRMA chairman, Pfizer CEO Jeffrey Kindler — a Democrat who replaces current PhRMA chairman and AstraZeneca CEO David Brennan on March 18.
However, both PhRMA and Pfizer said the two men looked forward to working with each other.
“Billy has great relations with our board members,” said PhRMA Senior Vice President Ken Johnson.
Brennan added the group was grateful for Tauzin’s “strong leadership and many accomplishments … including his efforts to bring about healthcare reform.”
Still, Republican strategist Scott Reed cited flaws with Tauzin’s approach, saying he “got seduced by Obama world, and it turned out to be a strategic blunder for his industry.”
It is unclear what changes, if any, PhRMA would make in pressing the case for health reform as Democrats try to ramp up support, or what impact the change could have on the industry. PhRMA’s steep pockets all but guarantee its continuing role in shaping health reform negotiations going forward.
As for Tauzin, his tenure is probably best marked by his vocal support for the industry after surviving cancer. He denied his departure was due to any illness. His plans include writing a book, traveling and consulting, a PhRMA source said.
“As the first-ever cancer patient to lead PhRMA as its CEO, I now believe it is time I move on,” Tauzin wrote. “My health is excellent and I look forward to exciting new challenges ahead.”
November 19, 2009
By David Gutierrez
(NaturalNews) A former lobbyist and Monsanto employee who is credited with playing an instrumental role in introducing genetically modified milk and known carcinogens into the U.S. Food supply has been hired as a key advisor for the FDA.
Michael Taylor has been hired to advise Margaret Hamburg, the FDA’s commissioner of food and drugs. In his new position, Taylor will also work with the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, the Center for Veterinary Medicine, the Office of Regulatory Affairs, Congress and the White House.
Taylor’s FDA career began in 1976, when he served as an attorney for the agency. From 1981 to 1991, Taylor functioned as a private attorney and lobbyist. During this time period, he wrote numerous articles criticizing the 1958 Delaney Clause, which prohibited known carcinogens from being introduced into the food supply. A number of chemical and pesticide companies had long been critical of the law, including agrochemical and genetic engineering giant Monsanto Corporation. Taylor rejoined the FDA from 1991 to 1994, serving as deputy commissioner for policy.
At this time, Taylor remained an outspoken opponent of the Delaney Clause. The law was repealed in 1996. He is also widely viewed as instrumental in securing agency approval for Monsanto’s recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), an artificial hormone that is used to increase milk production in cattle. After leaving the FDA, Taylor served as Monsanto’s vice president for public policy from 1998 to 2000.
Taylor’s long history of close ties with Monsanto led to a Government Accountability Office investigation into whether the rBGH approval process had been influenced by conflicts of interest.
“The FDA allowed corporate influence to run rampant in its approval” of rBGH, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said.
Taylor also played a key role in the FDA decision to treat genetically modified organisms as “substantially equivalent” to unmodified organisms, thus bypassing the need for safety studies or labeling or those ingredients.