Echoes of Big Tobacco fight in Big Pharma hearings

Emily Kopp, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

He accused the American Action Form of acting as a mouthpiece for industry, pointing to funding accepted by its sister organization, American Action Network, from the pharmaceutical lobby.

"The American Action Forum is an independent 501(c)(3) focused on educating the public about complex policy issues and potential solutions," said Angela S. Kuck, the group's communications director. "While our donors are free to disclose their financial support as they wish, we don't disclose or discuss our donors."

Whether it's the tobacco industry or the pharmaceutical industry, executives push against solutions that can fit onto a bumper sticker (or into a hashtag) and push toward highly technical ones, Glantz said.

With complicated solutions, lobbyists and insiders can work in advantageous provisions that go overlooked even by sophisticated members of the public.

One lesson of those historic tobacco hearings is to beware of being diverted by measures without a real effect.

In the 1990s, momentum gathered behind a "global settlement" that would have settled all public and private litigation against the tobacco industry. But the agreement -- championed on Capitol Hill by Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain -- ultimately would have preempted stronger federal and state regulations while granting the industry immunity from future private class action suits.

The tobacco industry "figured out saying 'we won't do anything' was becoming politically impossible. So friendly politicians signed on to pretend solutions that prevented progress," Glantz said.


The tobacco industry simultaneously forged relationships on Capitol Hill through campaign contributions. Research by the Saint Louis University School of Public Health shows donations from over a dozen tobacco PACs were positively associated with pro-tobacco votes, directly contributing to preventable deaths caused by smoking.

The pharmaceutical industry contributed about $24 million to lawmakers in both parties in the 2018 cycle, rivaling the campaign spending of other power interest groups such as lobbyists and the oil and gas industries, according to OpenSecrets.org.

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