Donors to President-Elect Bush Look for Return on Investment
Industry groups that raised record amounts of money for President-elect Bush and the Republican Party have "great expectations" for -- and "a few favors" to ask of -- the new Bush administration, the Wall Street Journal reports. Although some organizations will "hol[d] their lobbying fire" until Bush assembles his White House, others have already "push[ed] their priorities" to the Bush transition team via lobbyists and position papers. For example, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which spent more than $15 million on issue ads favoring Republicans, has sent "white papers" to the Bush transition team, urging the president-elect to "rol[l] back" ergonomics rules issued by the Clinton administration. Pharmaceutical firms, which contributed $4 million to the Bush campaign and the GOP and spent an additional $40 million on issue ads, "want their voice heard" in the Medicare prescription drug benefit debate. Although most industry groups will not "know for months what return, if any, their investments will reap," the Journal points out that "it is nonetheless vital to establish ties" with the incoming administration, adding, "It doesn't hurt if you have spent money helping to put them there." Mark Merritt, a political strategist with the American Association of Health Plans, said, "The question is how to get access to the new administration." According to Merritt, AAHP sent $25,000 to the Texas State Society to help fund the "Black Tie & Boots" inaugural ball, and other corporate sponsors "shell[ed] out" $50,000 each for the event. "Inauguration is the biggest game in town for donors who want to give that last something special," he said.
While many groups may not reap the rewards of their investments for months, if ever, the pharmaceutical industry's donations have helped it emerge as an "early winner." Last week, Bush nominated Mitchell Daniels, an executive with drug giant Eli Lilly & Co., to head the
Office of Management and Budget (Hamburger, Wall Street Journal, 12/28). While Daniels will not have "direct responsibility" over health policy, he would likely serve as a "key architect" in administration proposals to overhaul Medicare, including a prescription drug benefit; limit drug patents to encourage price competition; or allow the reimportation of less expensive drugs from abroad (American Health Line, 1/3). The Journal reports that while Daniels has not "actively lobbied" on prescription drugs, he testified in the Senate last year that Lilly backs a drug benefit "based on competition among private sector options where beneficiaries can choose the plan they want" (Wall Street Journal, 12/28). Daniels also said that plans like the Clinton administration's proposal to "simply" add a drug benefit to Medicare could "quickly translate into price controls" for drugs and "derail medical progress" (American Health Line, 1/3).