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The Red Light Districts in Our State Capitals

What is shocking is not that the drug industry spends money lobbying, but that we have a system that forces elected representatives to become cheap whores.
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"The [drug] industry spent tremendous sums to defeat [legislative efforts in states] because they have so much at stake," said Bernie Horn, policy director for the Center for Policy Alternatives, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that works with state legislators.

Why is Mr. Horn saying this, and is he kidding?

Don't get me wrong. Mr. Horn does superb work and I don't mean to downplay an important new analysis from the Center for Public Integrity. But I do mean to put things into perspective.

According to the Center for Public Integrity's most recent study, the pharmaceutical industry spent more than $44 million on lobbying state governments in 2003 and 2004 and I think we are supposed to be shocked by this number. But if anything is shocking, it is that it's so cheap to buy our legislators.

The drug industry is the goose that laid not just one golden egg, but hundreds of blockbuster drugs, and whose only problem is that it can't speed up the invention of golden eggs even more. And for such a fat goose, $44 million is not even pocket change; it is a rounding error.

In fact, global pharmaceutical sales tallies in at $500 billion. Of that revenue, $230 billion is in North America. That's more than double the dollar sales in the European Union, in spite of the fact that the EU has a 50% larger population.

So let's find out how much $44 million means to the drug companies. First we'll get the general ratios from Pfizer's most recent annual report. In 2005 Pfizer revenues were $51.3 billion, research costs 7.4 billion (14.4% of revenue) and "other costs and expenses," which I guess is the new buzz word to try to hide "marketing, selling and administrative" expenses were a whopping $29.3 billion (57% of revenue).

So let's assume these numbers are true for the industry in general; it would then spend 57% out of $230 billion on non-research related costs. That's $131 billion on marketing, selling, and a few executive airplanes, private chauffeurs and whatever other stuff they don't want you to know about. $44 million constitutes 0.03% of total drug industry spending on non-research items. Perhaps it will provide some more perspective if I also note that $44 million is what it takes for any CEO to purchase a new Gulfstream executive airplane. And then he gets seating for fifteen thankful legislators.


It is only sad that in our great "democracy" so much can be bought for so little and what is shocking is not that the drug industry spends this money; they'd be fools if they didn't. What's shocking is that we have a system that forces elected representatives to become cheap whores.

Anyone else thinks we need campaign finance reform--real campaign finance reform?

Just kidding. The "customers" want to be able to continue to visit the red light district in our state capitals, so of course, nothing will change, because, like, who would really care about what voters think?

Please, enjoy the evening, ladies and gentlemen, but don't forget what you really are; prostitutes and johns.


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