Endorsers of Proposition 78 Receive Funding from Drug Company Campaign; Lawmakers Voice Opposition to Pro-78 Mailer
Pharmaceutical companies have given "hundreds of thousands of dollars" to political leaders and civil rights organizations that have endorsed the industry-supported Proposition 78 on the Nov. 8 special election ballot, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Drug manufacturers have spent $76 million on the Yes on 78-No on 79 campaign, although it is not clear from disclosure records how money has been used by recipients. Some records show that financial contributions paid for mailings and consultants' profits (Morain, Los Angeles Times, 11/4).
Proposition 78 would establish a voluntary prescription drug discount plan for state residents whose annual incomes do not exceed 300% of the federal poverty level. The measure is supported by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.
Proposition 79, a measure supported by Health Access California and a coalition of labor groups, would require drug makers to participate in a prescription drug discount program or face exclusion from the Medi-Cal formulary in some cases. To qualify, state residents' annual incomes could not exceed 400% of the federal poverty level. State residents who spend more than 5% of their annual income on health care also would be eligible to participate in Proposition 79's drug discount program. In addition, people could sue a pharmaceutical company if they believe it is participating in illegal pricing practices (California Healthline, 11/3).
Endorsers who have received financial contributions from the Yes on 78-No on 79 campaign include:
- A.C. Public Affairs, which has received $720,000 since July, including $400,000 for the cost of a mailer. Alice Huffman, a political consultant at the firm, is also president of the California State Conference of the NAACP, which also has received money from drug companies. Huffman's chapter and local affiliates of the NAACP have received payments of $2,500 to $5,000;
- Former Assembly member Gwen Moore, whose consulting firm received $50,000 from the Proposition 78 campaign for mailers supporting the initiative;
- The Rev. Lou Sheldon, head of the Traditional Values Coalition, which has received $30,000 from the Proposition 78 campaign;
- Emergency department physician Myiesha Taylor, who received $30,000 as a consultant to the campaign; and
- Navito Lopez, president of the Mexican American Political Association, which has received $20,000 from the campaign.
Some of those who endorse Proposition 78 have not disclosed to voters that they or their organizations have received money from the drug company campaign.
Robert Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies, said pharmaceutical companies "are clearly going beyond the traditional TV, radio and slate mailers. The question is, are endorsements up for sale or are the endorsements coming first? ... We won't know the answer."
Jose Hermacillo, a spokesperson for the Proposition 78 campaign, said, "The people who have signed on have done so based on the policy differences between the two measures" (Los Angeles Times, 11/4).
A mailer funded by PhRMA targeting black voters shows 12 prominent state lawmakers next to an endorsement for Proposition 78, which some of them oppose, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports. Two of the lawmakers, who have endorsed Proposition 79 on the Nov. 8 special election ballot, on Thursday denounced the mailer (Werner, AP/Sacramento Bee, 11/3).
The mailer was produced by the Black Women's Political Guide and Information committee, which is run by Moore. According to state records, the group has received all of its $50,000 funding from the PhRMA California Initiative Fund, Yes on 78 and No on 79 (Richman, Oakland Tribune, 11/3). However, nowhere on the mailer does it state that the document was produced with money from PhRMA (AP/Sacramento Bee, 11/3).
The mailer lists reasons to vote for Proposition 78 next to a column titled "California Tops All States in Number of Black Women in Congress" and pictures of Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-Calif.) and Diane Watson (D-Calif.). The page also includes photographs of six black state lawmakers.
On the back of the mailer, titled the "Black Woman's Political Guide," is a fine-print "notice to voters" that states "[a]ppearance in this mailer does not necessarily imply ... endorsement of, or opposition to, any issues set forth in this mailer."
The mailer discusses other ballot measures, but "much of its space is dedicated to the prescription drug measures," the Tribune reports (Oakland Tribune, 11/3).
Several local broadcast programs included reports on the drug discount measures:
- KPCC's "KPCC News": The program on Thursday examined Proposition 79. The segment includes comments from Julie Corcoran, a lobbyist with PhRMA; Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California; and a state resident who does not take her medications as prescribed because of cost (Keith, "KPCC News," KPCC, 11/3). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- KPCC's "KPCC News": The program on Wednesday examined Proposition 78. The segment includes comments from Corcoran; John Kehoe, co-chair of the Yes on 78 campaign and former executive director of the California Commission on Aging; and Earl Lui, senior attorney with Consumers' Union, which opposes Proposition 78 (Keith, "KPCC News," KPCC, 11/2). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- KQED's "This Week in Northern California": The program on Friday is scheduled to include an interview with Clea Benson, reporter for the Sacramento Bee, about Propositions 78 and 79 (Davis, "This Week in Northern California," KQED, 11/4).
Additional information on Propositions 78 and 79 is available online. This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.