I’m going to spend a few posts on the Kentucky Legislature and the lobbyists that attempt to influence the laws of the Commonwealth.
I really don’t think all lobbyists are evil, some work for noble causes with a minimum of compensation.
However, most fall into the category of hired guns for big money concerns protecting their profit margin.
So let’s look at the drug companies first.
Say you felt that drug prices were out of control and wanted the Kentucky General Assembly to do something about it like the AARP plan:
Having the state merge the existing programs with the new Medicare Rx coverage to provide greater assistance to more people.
Pass laws extending the state purchasing and bargaining power via bulk purchasing.
Support reform of the drug companies’ questionable marketing practices to curb the undue influence they have on the drugs physicians prescribe.
The AARP does have a lobbyist in Frankfort named Phil Peters.
What’s Mr. Peters up against?
According to the Legislative Ethics Commission the following drug companies currently have hired guns on the payroll to watch and influence the Kentucky General Assembly.
Abbott Laboratories, Inc. – Dale R. Johnson
Amgen - Kathy Feegel
Amylin Pharmaceuticals - Robin Stanley
Astra Zeneca Pharmaceuticals – Christine Barnett
Bayer Corporation – Sandra Oliver
Bristol-Myers Squibb Company – John G. Ryan
Eli Lilly And Company – Todd A. Bledsoe
Glaxo Smithkline - T. Gary Blalack
I may have missed a few lobbyists in the list above but here’s the bottom line.
These companies make billions of dollars in net profits. You can check the financials here. They make so much money they can afford lobbyists for Kentucky. The General Assembly spends so much time on things like bashing gays or coming up with the Official State Fossil they are not very likely to make an impact on the drug industry in this state.
So why are there still eight drug companies with registered lobbyists in Kentucky?
Simple, the follow the basic rule that you need to kill any idea or plan that may harm the company profits before it grows. You do it with money and influence.
Let’s look at Glaxo Smithkline as an example. In addition to having someone monitoring legislation and walking the halls in Frankfort Glaxo Smithkline has made a small number of political contributions.
Glaxo Smithkline, according to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, has contributed $7,250.00 to various Kentucky Candidates.
The candidates receiving contributions include Ernie Fletcher, Daniel Mongiardo, and Steve Beshear. The Democratic Senate Caucus and the Democratic House Caucus also received contributions. The Caucus funds are slush funds to insure the reelection of members of the respective houses.
Now, $7,250.00 is really not much money spread over multiple candidates and I am not suggesting that this kind of money buys special favors.
But couple the money spent by the drug companies with the rest of the health care industries and you start making an impact, particularly if you have multiple people, with connections to campaign contributions, walking the halls in Frankfort and bending the ears or legislators.
In a fight to change the way the drug companies do business Phil Peters and the AARP are outgunned eight to one, and that’s just the drug companies.