PharmExec Blog

Pharma's Influence on the Super Committee: Is Cash Really King?

Three of the twelve appointees to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (aka Super Committee) received over $300,000 in campaign contributions from pharmaceutical companies, according to Center for Responsive Politics data, and a MapLight analysis.

The data, which tallies contributions made to political campaigns over ten years (2000-2010), shows that Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) received more pharma dollars – approximately $340,000 – than any other Super Committee member. Baucus, also chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, took in just slightly more pharma cheddar than Reps. Dave Camp (R-MI) and James Clyburn (D-SC), who got $327,000 and $305,000, respectively. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) received the smallest pharma contribution over 10 years, at roughly $15,000; over half of that came from Pfizer.

Pfizer gave more money to Super Committee candidates than any other Big Pharma company, at $183,000, a tear in the ocean for a company with revenues topping $67 billion last year. Lilly came in second at $155,000, and Abbott was the third largest contributor, at $146,000. All told, the pharma sector contributed around $2 million across the 12 Committee members – over ten years – and the rest of the healthcare industry, which includes insurers, professional practice groups and other service providers, gave an additional $7 million.

While these dollar amounts would be enough to constitute a conflict of interest for a physician attempting to sit on an FDA advisory panel, they’re relatively small, and it’s an open question as to whether they’ll provide much in the way of protection against additional cuts beyond the health reform givebacks negotiated by former PhRMA president Billy Tauzin two years ago. President Obama, for his part, received over $2 million in campaign contributions from pharma since 1989, according to the data, but an election season combined with a teetering economy and incessant deficit talks may remove any political safeguards the industry previously enjoyed.

After all, Super Committee members have been handed an assignment to trim $1.5 trillion worth of budget brisket, and if they exempt pharma, then bigger constituencies with more reach in their own districts will have to pay the difference. The fact is, pharma’s clout is concentrated in a few states, and it’s hard to make the case for job creation when it tops the league charts in cutting 300,000 highly-skilled U.S. jobs in the past 10 years. Nevertheless, PhRMA can point to tactical alliances with some unlikely counterparts. For example, Super Committee co-chair Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) was a key opponent of efforts to open the gates to drug importation and roll back data exclusivity for biologics. This may prove more valuable in contesting the ideological debate around preserving market-oriented solutions in healthcare.

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One Comment

  1. Posted August 16, 2011 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Why come up with a new deficit reduction plan when we already have a bipartisan plan that was created back in December 2010? The Bowles-Simpson Commission created the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform plan that takes a balanced approach to in reducing the national debt. If you agree please sign a petition to Congress to have the “super committee” adopt Bowles-Simpson plan at This is a grassroots effort; please pass it along if you can.

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