Lobbyists Put On Ventriloquist Act

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More than a dozen lawmakers inserted statements supporting a biotechnology provision added to the House health care bill that was crafted by lobbyists for the biotechnology firm Genentech. According to the New York Times, “lobbyists, employed by Genentech and by two Washington law firms, were remarkably successful in getting the statements printed in the Congressional Record under the names of different members of Congress.”

The Genentech lobbyists crafted two statements — one for Democrats and one for Republicans — for lawmakers to insert into the Congressional Record. The collection of lawmakers is very bipartisan with ten Republicans and eight Democrats issuing near identical statements. (One Democrat, Rep. Heath Shuler, inserted the Republican statement.)

For the unstudied examiner these insertions look like amateur work; more a liability than a success for this multi-million dollar lobbying campaign. That may turn out to be true with the Times’ story, but the statements made by these eighteen lawmakers can serve a powerful purpose for the biotechnology industry and Genentech in particular.

The words spoken or inserted into the official Congressional Record carry an import that those spoken in a television interview or campaign speech do not. These are official words placed in an archived government document, preserved for posterity. The use of the lobbyist written script by these eighteen lawmakers amounts to full-throated endorsement, not just of the biotechnology provision, but of the interpretation of what that provision means to one particular company, Genentech and their parent company Roche, Inc.

These statements will aid the industry when they lobby the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the implementation of the law and the attendent rules that relate to the biotechnology industry. They also help by putting these lawmakers on the line in official support of Genentech’s view of the provision. In turn, these lawmakers will likely see a hefty rise in campaign contributions from Genentech and their friends. Perhaps Genentech or another biotechnology firm will decide to fund a research project in their district. Even better, the lawmaker could earmark a research grant that could only be filled by Genentech.

Insertions into the Congressional Record have caused controversy in the past. In 2000, Rep. Bob Ney placed two statements into the Congressional Record regarding the sale of SunCruz Casinos. It was a bit odd for an Ohio congressman to be getting involved in the middle of a casino boat sale in Florida. Ney placed one statement into the record bad-mouthing SunCruz owner Gus Boulis and another singing the praises of the potential buyer Adam Kidan. It turned out that Ney was on the take from Kidan and his partner Jack Abramoff and wound up pleading guilty to multiple charges in 2006.

In 2006, Sens. Lindsay Graham and Jon Kyl filed a brief in the Supreme Court case Hamdan v. Rumsfeld arguing that the Detainee Treatment Act, recently passed by Congress, removed Hamdan’s case from federal court jurisdiction. In the brief, Graham and Kyl cite themselves having a colliquoy in the Congressional Record during debate on the Detainee Treatment Act. Graham and Kyl were trying to show that the “legislative history,” the interpretation of legislation by lawmakers voting on it, meant to remove Hamdan’s case from the federal docket. Only problem, the colliquoy never happened. It was inserted at the last minute by the two senators. It’s hard to prove that something is legislative history when only two senators were aware of the stated congressional interpretation. The court asserted jurisdiction over the case in a 5-3 vote and sided with Hamdan against the Secretary of Defense.

FireDogLake’s Marcy Wheeler pulled together a list of congressmen using the Genentech lobbyist language. You can see them below:

Republicans:

Reps. Joe Wilson, Lynn Jenkins, Ted Poe, Darrell Issa, Blaine Luetkemeyer, Lee Terry, Jerry Moran, Mike Conaway, Kay Granger and Kevin McCarthy.

Democrats:

Reps. Bob Filner, Yvette Clarke, Bill Pascrell, Linda Sanchez, Phil Hare, Donld Payne, Robert Brady and Heath Shuler.

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