How to buy a law
By Joe Baker, Senior Editor
Last year the House and Senate passed the Bioterrorism Preparedness Act, a $4.6 billion piece of legislation designed to help the U.S. respond to a biological terror assault.
Sponsors of this bill were Sen. William Frist, R-Tenn. and Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. President Bush signed it into law on June 12, 2002.
The measure provides for stockpiling smallpox vaccine and providing potassium iodide to communities near nuclear power plants. Potassium iodide is used to treat radiation poisoning.
This bill also furnishes more funds to the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture for hiring more food inspectors. The law also reauthorizes an FDA program that fast-tracks new drug applications.
Called the Prescription Drug User Fee Act, the program permits drug makers to pay a fee to the FDA to get faster approval of new drugs. That aids the likes of Merck, Pfizer, Squibb, Bristol-Myers and Bayer, to name a few.
According to the Web site www.opensecrets.org, lobbyists from all the top pharmaceutical companies and representatives of their trade groups met with members of Congress and outlined the exact language they wanted in the bill.
Top executives of the drug companies had repeated meetings with members of the Bush cabinet for the same purpose. The pharmaceutical industry, through its trade organization, launched a public relations campaign to make sure they are the leading source of information to the public, as one member told the National Journal.
Among the top recipients of funds from pharmaceutical companies were Frist and Kennedy. In the period 1999-2000, Frist got $73,707 from drug makers, and Kennedy hauled in $44,500.
In that same period, the drug industry gave more than $19 million in individual, political action committee and soft money contributions to politicos. Some 77 percent went to Republicans. In the first portion of 2001, contributions topped $3.6 million with 74 percent going to Republicans.
Sen. Frist just replaced Sen. Trent Lott as Senate majority leader. Lott resigned after a firestorm of critizism because of his pro-segregationist remarks at the retirement party for Sen. Strom Thurmond.