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Drug Lobby, Eli Lilly Freeze Donations to GOP Election Deniers

Jan. 13, 2021, 8:23 PM

The powerful pharmaceutical industry joined the growing ranks of corporate America in suspending political donations to Republican lawmakers who voted against certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election.

“The actions that took place violate the values of our nation and the values held by America’s biopharmaceutical research companies,” Steve Ubl, president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), said, referring to the mob that broke into the Capitol last week to try to stop Congress from certifying the election. The riot resulted in five deaths.

“That is why we are pausing political giving to those who voted to reject the outcome of the election. It’s time to come together as one nation and address the difficult challenges we face,” Ubl said a statement Tuesday.

PhRMA joins the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and other corporations such as Walmart Inc. and Walt Disney Co. in suspending political contributions to members of Congress who voted against certifying the election.

PhRMA’s decision takes on added significance because it goes against its self-interest. The industry strongly opposes a proposal by Democrats to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, and Republicans have joined drugmakers in pushing back against it. The trade group donates to both Republicans and Democrats.

The 147 Republicans who voted against certification cited irregularities in the election process and results after President Donald Trump continued to insist that election results were fraudulent, despite losing numerous court challenges on that charge.

PhRMA in 2020 directly donated to 12 Republicans who went on to vote against certifying Biden’s presidential win. The donations ranged from $500 to $5,000, according to a Bloomberg Law analysis of public campaign finance records. Those 12 Republicans are: Debbie Lesko (Ariz.), Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), Devin Nunes (Calif.), Earl L. “Buddy” Carter (Ga.), Jackie Walorski (Ind.), Mike Johnson (La.), Steve Scalise (La.), Andy Harris (Md.), Jason Smith (Mo.), Richard Hudson (N.C), Lee Zeldin (N.Y), and Adrian Smith (Neb.).

Indirect Donations

Those contributions don’t reflect the full impact of PhRMA’s political giving.

Many Republicans who voted against Biden’s win received funding from groups PhRMA donated to in 2020, like the Value in Electing Women PAC, which financially supported Lesko, Jalorski, Mary Miller (Ill.), Lisa McClain (Mich.), Michelle Fischbach (Minn.), Yvette Herrell (N.M.), Nicole Malliotakis (N.Y.), Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), Stephanie Bice (Okla.), Diana Harshbarger (Tenn.), Beth Van Duyne (Texas), and Carol Miller (W.Va.). The group financially supported many Republican women, many of whom did not vote against election certification.

Three Republican senators who voted against certifying the election—Tommy Tuberville (Ala.), Roger Marshall (Kan.), and Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.)— received donations ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 from the Common Values PAC, which received money from the Cowboy Victory Committee, which received $1,000 from PhRMA in 2020.

It’s the sort of indirect and sometimes muddled financial support found in the Value in Electing Women PAC and the Common Values PAC that makes it difficult to put a face to all the dollars behind political candidates. Both of these groups give a lot of money to candidates that didn’t shun the 2020 election results. But it’s this convoluted donation system that will make it difficult to know the exact role powerful groups like PhRMA play in the larger political scheme, and will make it hard to track when and if they start donating to these Republican candidates again in the future.

Lilly Suspends Contributions

Meanwhile, Indianapolis-based drug company Eli Lilly also said it is withholding campaign contributions from lawmakers who voted against the presidential election certification.

“While we support candidates from both parties with a variety of political views, we expect any candidate we support to demonstrate respect for people and respect for our democratic process and institutions,” the company said in a statement.

“This certainly covers anyone who promoted violence or sedition that contributed to the appalling events on January 6th or who continues to support violence to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power our democracy is founded upon. As such, LillyPAC will suspend political giving to those who voted against certification of the 2020 election results,” the company said.

Gilead Sciences, UnitedHealth Group and Biotechnology Innovation Organization have suspended all political contributions while they review donation policies.

The move by PhRMA and other health-care industry players shuts off the spigot—at least for now—on a substantial amount of campaign cash.
According to Federal Election Commission data, PhRMA’s political action committee gave a total of $359,581 in the last election cycle. Eli Lilly’s PAC gave $1,674,725; BIO’s PAC: $329,541; UnitedHealth: $4,453,250; Blue Cross Blue Shield: $924,150; and Gilead’s PAC: $233,083.

Other health-care groups, such as the America’s Health Insurance Plans and the American Hospital Association, said they are reviewing their political giving practices.

—With assistance from Alex Ruoff

To contact the reporters on this story: Sara Hansard in Washington at shansard@bloomberglaw.com; Jacquie Lee in Washington at jlee1@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Fawn Johnson at fjohnson@bloombergindustry.com; Brent Bierman at bbierman@bloomberglaw.com

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