Big Pharma's Political Contributions

by on September 16, 2012

If you had to guess the biggest lobbiers in the country, who would you say? Insurance companies? Oil and gas? Big Business?

No, no, and no again.

From 1998-2012, pharmaceutical companies and health products have led the political lobbying charge in the US by spending over $2 billion over the period.  Their total lobbying spend in 2011 alone was $241,481,544.

big pharma political contributions - dems vs rep graphicIn contrast to, say, labor unions, who primarily donate Democratic, or perhaps the oil industry, with strong Republican leanings, Big Pharma has spread the wealth around, with significant contributions made to both sides of the aisle.

However, there has been a shift in the balance in recent elections. Traditionally drug companies gave to both, but gave more to Republicans.

In the 2000 election, 36% of pharmaceutical giving went to Democrats vs. 69% to Republicans and in 2004 it was 31% only to the Dems (vs. 67%). But as the 2008 presidential elections neared, the situation became more equal, with 49% of the $20 million donated to federal candidates and the parties going to the Democrats vs. 51% to Republicans. Overall that year, drug company donations to Democrats increased by $2.9 million, while those to the GOP decreased by $3.9 million.

Congressional Democrats, if singled out, even pulled ahead, with $11.3 million of drug company donations going to them, versus the $10.2 million that went to Republicans in the House and Senate.

Barack Obama was the single biggest recipient in 2008, with $848,000, followed by Hillary Clinton with $639,429, indicating strong Democratic leanings in the presidential race. Significantly less was received by the Republican candidates--first Mitt Romney who got $410,411, and only then John McCain, receiving $347,375.

Pfizer, the biggest donor year after year in the business, split its campaign contributions evenly between the two parties that year.

The next two largest campaign donors in the industry, Amgen and Johnson & Johnson, who had strongly supported Republicans for the past 16 years, also reached the 50-50 mark.

And then, in 2010, for the first time a majority, at 54%, of big Pharma money went to the Democrats. (Chronic big-spender Pfizer spent $1,100,814 on the election cycle, with an additional $13,330,000 in lobbying expenditures.)

As of September of 2012 it's back in the Republican column--although only with 54%.

Those percentages add up to big money. Drug company donations totaled more than $54 million in 2010, and have already passed that amount since the summer for the 2012 presidential and congressional elections. Additionally, in the first three months of this year alone the industry spent spent $69.6 million on lobbying.

The biggest contributors, according to Open Secrets, a resource for federal campaign contributions, lobbying data and analysis, will likely surprise no one.

Pfizer leads 2011-2012 federal campaign donations with $1,287,136 and about a 55-45 split in the Republicans' favor. Although numbers will increase before election time, that's slightly down from 2010 when Pfizer gave $1,581,836 to candidates, $826,045 to Democrats and $738,791 to Republicans, and significantly down from 2008 when they gave $2,865,575 dollars to federal candidates, with a 50-50 split.

Abbott Laboratories has donated $868,480, around 65% to Republicans. Four years ago they gave $1,613,933, 45% to Democrats and 55% to Republicans.

AstraZeneca has given out $794,863, with about 55% going to Republicans. Back in the 2008 election cycle they gave federal candidates $1,497,944, 51% to Democrats and 49% to Republicans. In 2010 they gave $1,378,313, 51% to Democrats and 48% to Republicans.

Merck and Co actually has split its $763,935 in contributions evenly between the two parties this year, as has Johnson and Johnson with its $716,541. In 2008 Merck spent $1,497,944 on federal candidates--51% to Democrats and 49% to Republicans. Two years later, in 2010, Johnson and Johnson spent $1.1 million on federal campaign contributions. In Congress, $266,500 of their donations went to House Democrats and $185,000 to House Republicans.  Senate Democrats got $67,000 and Senate Republicans a lesser $36,000.

Eli Lilly has given $571,179 so far this year, about 55% of it to Republicans. In the 2010 election cycle Eli Lilly gave $2,345,224 to federal candidates, 58% to Democrats, 41% to Republicans.

Aside from outright donations, who are the biggest lobbiers from big Pharma this year so far?

Top lobbying clients of 2012 are:

  • Eli Lilly, with $5,896,000,
  • Merck and Co right behind, at $5,890,000,
  • Pfizer, at $5,880,000, followed by
  • Amgen, with $4,550,000 in lobbying spending.

To whom do all those—quite significant—campaign contributions go? What candidate seems to be the choice big Pharma?

Well, despite spending that overall favors the Republicans in the 2012 election cycle, President Barack Obama has received more money from pharmaceutical companies than any other candidate.

The top 5 recipients of drug company largesse so far are:

  1. Barack Obama (D): $785,385
  2. Mitt Romney (R): $622,986
  3. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah): $327,627 (little surprise here, given that he's the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Finance)
  4. Fred Upton (R-Michigan): $253,615 (Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce)
  5. Scott Brown (R-Massachusetts): $246,953 (serving on the Veterans' Affairs Committee, the Armed Services Committee and the Homeland Security Committee)

There are only a few more weeks until pharmaceutical companies will know if their large sums of money have gone to the winning candidate. But by supporting both sides with such significant infusions of cash, they have most likely hedged their bets, and won friends with whoever wins on Election Day.

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    Where might I find a list of big pharma and big ag donations and gifts (bribes) to our many elected officials?

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