If you want to see the ugly underbelly of American politics, take a look at the documents we released last week detailing private events involving Democratic governors and Big Pharma.
The events were held during the February 2012 winter meeting of the National Governors Association (NGA) and were widely attended by unions, drug companies, and other health concerns.
As you’ll see, among the most active “pay-to-play” participants in these events was Pfizer, Inc., the “world’s largest research-based pharmaceutical company.” Pfizer sponsored an evening reception and dinner for members of the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) chairman’s board, which included donors of $100,000 or more to the organization. The reception provided attendees with personal access to the Democratic governors.
A second, private reception held the following night included donors of $250,000 or more to the DGA, as well as members of the chairman’s board. Both events were closed to the press.
We obtained these records pursuant to a March 7, 2012, request submitted to the office of Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin under the Vermont Public Records Law. Here’s what they show:
- Pharmaceutical companies attending both of the privately held events for major donors to the DGA included Allergan, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, and Pfizer. Amgen, Lilly, and Merck attended only the first event. Bristol-Myers Squibb attended the second reception open to donors of $250,000 and above.
- Donors attending both receptions from the health care industry included Aflac, Amerigroup, Norvo Nordisk, and the United Health Group. American Health Care Association and eHealth attended only the first event. Blue Cross Blue Shield attended the second reception.
- Union organizations and trade associations attending both receptions included International Council of Shopping Centers, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, National Education Association, and the United Food and Commercial Workers.
Also attending the Pfizer-sponsored dinner and both receptions was former governor of South Carolina, James Hodges, representing MAXIMUS, the for-profit company that provides program management and consulting to local and state governments on health and human services. MAXIMUS has been embroiled over the years in a number of scandals, including a lawsuit brought against it by the United States Government for falsifying Medicare claims adding up to some $30.5 million. MAXIMUS settled the lawsuit.
The documents also show that Steve Janson, Pfizer’s VP of public affairs, requested to sit next to Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin at the Chairman’s Dinner. The request seemingly was granted.
The stated purpose of the NGA meetings beginning on February 25 and ending with the White House dinner with President and Mrs. Obama on February 27 was to discuss job creation and expanding economic growth. However, the DGA meetings inserted before and during the weekend provided pharmaceutical and health care companies direct access to Democratic governors.
And this has become a growing problem on both sides of the aisle.
As reported by The New York Times, the DGA and Republican Governors Association (RGA) have become major targets of influence for lobbyists: “Operating outside the laws that block federal candidates and party committees from taking money from unions or businesses, the Democratic governors’ group — and its Republican counterpart — are case studies in corporate political fund-raising.”
This is a “pay-to-play” system where big companies and unions pump gobs of cash into lavish events in order to persuade politicians to serve their interests.
It’s no wonder Big Pharma did not want the press around while they were busy wining and dining Democratic Governors! How would it look to the American people to see drug companies, unions and health care interests effectively greasing the palms of the nation’s Democratic governors? This is especially ironic given Obama’s anti-“special interest”/big business rhetoric.
Even the leftist Times notes: “At the moment, though, the Democrats’ efforts are more noteworthy. Their governors have overcome the national party’s antibusiness image to pull closer to the Republicans in corporate fund-raising. And the governors’ association’s eager courtship of corporate money is at odds with warnings from Congressional Democrats in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision that such spending is a threat to democracy.”
Governor Shumlin’s response to our disclosures was incredible. His spokesman told one Vermont paper that the Pfizer rep is a friend of the governor’s and that, “No governor in the country has a stronger or more consistent record of standing up to the pharmaceutical industry than Gov. Shumlin,” This statement doesn’t explain much, but does highlight Governor Shumlin’s cynical hypocrisy. As conservatives, we don’t think government officials should be “standing up to” (meaning attacking) private corporations, as most leftists support. We’re just concerned with politicians misusing their offices to raise money to stay in power.
Thanks to Judicial Watch, this scandal is no longer a well-kept secret. But we’re not finished. A separate Judicial Watch investigation into the RGA meetings is now underway. In the meantime, Gov. Shumlin is supposed to take over as head of the DGA.