California Legislator Joins Big Pharma Via “Revolving Door”
- California Assemblyman Henry T. Perea has resigned from the state legislature to take a job as senior director of advocacy for the PhRMA trade group.
- The pharmaceutical industry donated generously to Perea while he was in office.
- “Revolving door” hiring polices between U.S. legislators and the pharmaceutical industry is leading to an increase in public scrutiny as conflict of interest concerns become an issue in lawmaking that favors Big Pharma.
PhRMA is one of the wealthiest and most influential special interest lobbying organizations in the U.S., putting its weight behind federal and state legislation that serves the interests of global pharmaceutical companies marketing drugs and vaccines in the U.S.2 In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, former Assemblyman Perea said PhRMA is an “excellent organization. They innovate, they discover cures, they represent a lot of California employers.”3 He added, “The debate in healthcare, especially after the Affordable Care Act, is going to be very robust over the next decade or two and I look forward to being a part of that.“3
Although California has enacted a law banning former legislators from lobbying former colleagues for a period of one year after leaving office, it did not deter PhRMA from pursuing Perea as their senior director of advocacy.1 4 Perea was hired by PhRMA six months after SB 277 was signed into law, a bill that eliminated the personal belief vaccine exemption for religious and conscientious beliefs and bars children from attending daycare centers and public and private schools if they do not have multiple doses of 10 state mandated vaccines.5
While the Los Angeles Times reported that Perea received “more than $150,000 in campaign contributions” from the pharmaceutical industry while he served in the California legislature,1 his voting record indicates that he did not vote on SB 277 bill, according to VoteSmart.org.6
The Influence Game: PhRMA’s Robust Lobbying Track RecordSince 2010, PhRMA has dished out a significant amount of funds to lobby the California governor, state lawmakers and other state government officials.1
According to an analysis of state lobbying disclosure forms conducted by CalWatchdog.com, PhRMA has spent over $2.59 million in state lobbying in the past five years.1 7 This equates to approximately $500,000 per year in annual lobbying fees, which excludes funds spent by PhRMA’s member organizations. To understand the extent of the pharmaceutical lobby influence on legislators and legislation, note that just one PhRMA member, Pfizer, spent more than $3.18 million in lobbying efforts in California during the same time period.1
The pharmaceutical industry’s lobby in Sacramento donated generously to former state Assemblyman Perea’s political campaigns. According to FollowTheMoney.org, during his career, Perea accepted $157,144 in campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical industry.8 He is ranked 119th among all politicians in the U.S to receive funds from the pharmaceutical industry.1
According to MapLight.org, during the 2011-2012 legislative session, the pharmaceutical industry spent over $74,000 on Perea’s campaign, making it the second largest industry contributor to Perea’s campaign after the insurance industry.1 Several of Perea’s campaign committees also appear on campaign finance disclosure reports filed by pharmaceutical companies. In 2015, his campaign committee for the 2018 Insurance Commissioner campaign accepted $2,000 from Amgen and in 2014, Pfizer gave him $3,500.9 10
Revolving Door Between Big Pharma and Government Continues to SpinThis story is not all that surprising given that there are numerous examples of financial relationships between legislators and Big Pharma at the state and federal level. The revolving door between lawmaking and industry profitmaking is an important point to consider when many public health policies and laws crafted by our lawmakers, particularly vaccine policies and laws, are skewed in favor of the pharmaceutical industry.
The “revolving door” hiring policies have existed for years and have allowed legislators and federal agency regulators of vaccines, drugs and medical devices to secure jobs with industries whose products and profits are affected by legislation and regulation. Joseph Mercola, MD explains,
While it’s perfectly legal to engage the revolving door and switch jobs from government agencies to private industry and vice-versa, this practice has become so widespread it has undermined the entire system of checks and balances.11Dr. Mecola adds…
Conflict of interest is rampant not only within the field of medicine, but the revolving doors between government and industry has effectively led to a situation where it’s now extremely difficult, if not impossible, to trust conventional health advice from the federal government—which is supposed to be independent [but is not] due to this massive collusion between government and industry.11“Revolving door” hiring polices and practices between legislators and the pharmaceutical industry is legal but is it ethical? Should such blatant conflicts of interests be tolerated?. People who become aware of the conflicts don’t think it is a good idea for the pharmaceutical industry to be financially tied to and have so much influence on legislators.
However, most voters simply do not understand the extent of the pharmaceutical industry’s power and influence over our government and on medical and public health policies and laws. As Americans learn more about the candidates they elect to office and monitor how they vote after they get into office, the public conversation about financial conflicts of interest between legislators and the pharmaceutical industry is bound to get louder. Becoming informed, asking questions and pressing for reform of public policy and law is the only way we can protect our health from being compromised by powerful industry lobbies like Big Pharma.