Two-thirds of Congress cashed drug campaign check in 2020

STAT’s tool allows users to view PAC spending for individual pharmaceutical companies, geographically mapped by each company’s US headquarters, as shown on its website.

WASHINGTON – Seventy-two senators and 302 members of the House of Representatives cashed a check from the pharmaceutical industry ahead of the 2020 election – representing more than two-thirds of Congress, according to a new STAT analysis of records for the full electoral cycle.

Pfizer’s Political Action Committee alone has contributed to 228 lawmakers. Amgen’s PAC donated to 218, which means each company has helped fund the campaigns of nearly half of Capitol Hill’s lawmakers. Overall, the industry donated $ 14 million.

The scale of the spending highlights the continued influence of the pharmaceutical industry in Washington. Even after years of congressional and White House criticism of the high prices, it remains routine for elected officials who regulate the healthcare industry to accept six-figure sums.


The findings, published in a new STAT review of pharmaceutical industry political donations, also follow an extraordinary year for the pharmaceutical industry. In 2020, the federal government relied heavily on drugmakers to develop lightning-fast Covid-19 vaccines – helping to rehabilitate the industry’s reputation and political credibility.

STAT’s analysis includes an interactive map that allows readers to view contributions between PACs and pharmaceutical industry states, legislators and congressional districts. It builds on a previous STAT analysis released ahead of the election and now includes full records for the 2020 election cycle.

Donations from companies like Pfizer and Amgen are among the most noticeably common.


Pfizer, which arguably played the biggest role in the 2020 vaccine race, has also had a frenetic year politically. In addition to giving around $ 1 million to members of Congress, Pfizer also wrote checks to 1,048 individual candidates for state legislative elections.

While the pharmaceutical industry has donated money to a wide range of applicants, it has focused in particular on those from key committees that oversee healthcare legislation.

The main recipient of the money from the pharmaceutical industry was Rep. Richard Hudson, a Republican from North Carolina. Major groups in the pharmaceutical industry donated $ 139,500 to his last campaign, a remarkable sum in large part because Hudson is not a particularly powerful lawmaker, nor a known fundraiser. He sits on the Energy and Commerce Health subcommittee, an influential group that oversees much of health care legislation before Congress.

Other members of the committee also ranked among the top for donations from pharmaceutical companies, including several Democrats: Representatives Kurt Schrader (Oregon), Robin Kelly (Illinois) and Anna Eshoo (California), the chair of the subcommittee. .

STAT’s legislator search tool allows users to track individual legislators and their corporate PAC contributors. All members of Congress not shown on the card did not accept any checks from the 25 pharmaceutical industry groups in STAT’s analysis.

Industry allies like Sens. Thom Tillis (RN.C.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) Were also among the main recipients of pharmaceutical money. Both sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees intellectual property law. In 2019, the couple drafted a bill that would expand patent protections for the pharmaceutical industry.

The donations followed the Democrats’ aggressive push on drug prices in 2019. Under the leadership of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Democrats passed HR 3, the cost-cutting law medication. If passed, the bill could have cost the industry up to $ 500 billion in revenue, but it was never taken up by the GOP-controlled Senate.

Pharmaceutical industry lobbyists saw Republican control over the Senate as essential to industry interests. But after two second January elections in Georgia, Democrats control the chamber: their 50 seats, plus the decisive vote of Vice President Kamala Harris, give the party a very slim majority.

Despite the pharmaceutical industry’s apparent interest in preventing Democrats from controlling both Congress and the White House, contributions were almost evenly split among the major political parties: $ 7.1 million went to Republicans and 6 , $ 6 million to Democrats.

Alex Hogan / STAT

But several prominent Republicans, like Sen. Mitch McConnell (Ky.) And Representative Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) – the Senate and House GOP leaders, respectively – also made it to the top 15 of all. the recipients.

As was the case in state legislatures, the pharmaceutical industry was remarkably efficient when it came to spending money to win candidates. Very few candidates who accepted the money from the pharmaceutical industry ended up losing their re-election. Many donations have targeted Republican senators at risk of losing their seats, such as Tillis. Other major recipients included GOP Sens. Joni Ernst (Iowa), John Cornyn (Texas) and Steve Daines (Mont.).

The few pharma-backed lawmakers who lost were mostly Republican senators. Candidates who lost despite major support from the pharmaceutical industry understand the senses. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue (Ga.), Martha McSally (Arizona) and Cory Gardner (Colo.).

Overall, pharmaceutical industry spending was in line with that of other major industries. According to a slightly larger tally of industry donations, powerful sectors like law firms, oil and gas companies, and commercial banks gave slightly more than the pharmaceutical industry in 2020. Others , like airlines and tobacco, gave much less.

PP - Industry Fed

STAT’s review drew on data from the Center for Responsive Politics, which detailed donations from the 23 largest drugmakers and the PhRMA and BIO trade groups to members of Congress in 2019 and 2020.

The analysis of the pharmaceutical industry’s spending on congressional races accompanies a separate review of donations from drug companies to members of state legislatures. National campaign finance laws vary, and in some cases companies can make direct contributions to lawmakers. In Washington, however, it’s illegal for companies to donate to candidates. To get around this problem, companies form political action committees, or PACs. These external groups are often largely funded by contributions from executives, and the people who decide how to spend the money are often members of the company’s management.

The analysis includes contributions made directly to candidate election committees as well as to PACs affiliated with individual candidates. For example, the data visualizations include pharmaceutical contributions to Senator Mitt Romney’s (R-Utah) campaign committee and to the Believe in America PAC, a separate campaign group affiliated with Romney. Contributions to both organizations are attributed to Romney.

The data visualization excludes contributions to groups like the Blue Dog PAC, which are loosely affiliated with groups of lawmakers but not directly attributable to a single member of Congress.

While AbbVie acquired Allergan in May 2020, STAT’s analysis considers each company individually for the purpose of analyzing the political spending of their PACs. Likewise, the analysis treats the Bristol Myers Squibb and Celgene affiliated PACs separately, despite the completion of the Bristol Myers Squibb acquisition in late 2019. In both cases, the companies operated separate PACs and existed as entities. separate trade issues for much of the 2020 election cycle.

In two cases, the analysis also includes the subsidiaries of a large drug manufacturer, even if they maintain PACs separate from that of their parent company. Takeda’s contributions are mapped together with Shire, its subsidiary. Roche Holdings is represented by the combined PAC contributions of two subsidiaries that maintain their own PACs: Genentech and Spark Therapeutics.

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