If you happen to catch Bill Moyers’ show this week with his guest Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont or read “Foul Play in the Senate” published at common dreams by Moyers and co-writer Michael Winship, you will discover one more example of how Congressional crony capitalism has reached obscene levels.
Apparently if NYT team Eric Lipton and Kevin Sack hadn’t published their exemplary investigative report most of Congress, let alone the citizenry, would not have even known about a colossal half a billion dollar sweetheart arrangement slipped into a covert clause of the recent “fiscal cliff bill.”
The THREE SENATE PERPETRATORS, long-time enmeshed with a pharmaceutical giant called Amgen, are Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Democratic Senator Max Baucus, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and "that powerful committee’s ranking Republican", Orrin Hatch.
The loophole “tucked” into the bill was that Amgen, not mentioned by name, would have two more years of relief from Medicare cost controls for certain drugs used by patients who are on kidney dialysis, including a pill called Sensipar. This gift (to the corporation but not the taxpayers who must foot it) amounts to a whopping half a billion dollars.
According to Welch, Amgen has 74 lobbyists in Washington, many ex-Congressional staffers. The Times reporters traced Amgen’s “deep financial and political ties” to Baucus, McConnell and Hatch, “who hold heavy sway over Medicare payment policy.” All three senators have received large campaign donations from Amgen.
Since 2007, Amgen employees and its political action committee have contributed nearly $68,000 to Senator Baucus, $73,000 to Senator McConnell’s campaigns, and $59,000 to Senator Hatch.
And lo and behold, among those 74 Amgen lobbyists are the former chief of staff to Senator Baucus and the former chief of staff to Senator McConnell. ...
Inside to welcome them is a current top aide to Senator Hatch, one who helped weave this lucrative loophole. He used to work as a health policy analyst for — you guessed it — Amgen.
Yes, those are serious campaign donations. But when you consider the bang for the campaign buck the corporation is now getting from these high-flying bottom feeding Congressional lowlifes, it is vomit-inducing. Equally sickening is what Moyers referred to as the "golden revolving door" between Congress and corporations.
There’s more that highlights their shameless betrayal of us, the taxpayers.
Moyers reveals that Amgen INCIDENTALLY just paid a whopping fine of $762 million “in criminal and civil penalties; the company had been caught illegally marketing another one of its drugs.” Moyers and Winship:
The fact that their puppet master had been the subject of fines and a massive federal investigation mattered not to its servile pawns in the Senate, where pomp and circumstance are but masks for the brute power of money.
It seems that thanks to McConnell, Hatch and Baucus, the US taxpayer will end up paying $500 million of that enormous fine with this bill provision.
Peter Welch, Vermont’s Democratic Congressman, explained that he has just introduced bipartisan legislation to repeal this diabolical half billion-dollar gift to Amgen. His co-sponsors include Republican Richard Hanna of New York and Democrats Jim Cooper of Tennessee and Bruce Braley of Iowa.
Welch on that "snuck-in" provision (his words) confesses he had no idea of the illegitimate deal to Amgen until he himself read the New York Times expose. He maintains many of his fellow House members had no idea as well. It was put in at the eleventh hour by staffers following the orders of their big, bipartisan political leaders during the bill’s eleventh hour tweaking:
The Amgen deal confirms the American public’s worst suspicions of how Congress operates. As the nation’s economy teetered on the edge of a Congressional-created fiscal cliff, lobbyists for a private, for-profit company seized an opportunity to feed at the public trough. It’s no wonder cockroaches and root canals are more popular than Congress.
Welch revealed on Moyers’ show that the CEO of Amgen pulls in a cool $21 million in salary a year. The corporation is worth $17 billion.
“It doesn’t get worse than this!” declared Welch.
Moyers asked Welch if he were nervous about his own career in terms of repraisals for calling out the cronyism of senators with tremendous authority as well as challenging a massively wealthy corporation. Moyers also wondered if there was a snowball’s chance in hell to get the trojan horse little clause reversed at this point.
Welch clearly regards his efforts for a reversal as his oath-taking duty. He is also confident he will have bipartisan support, not just for righting the injustice perpetrated by Amgen and cronies, but for beginning to restore the public trust in Congress. Welch explained to Moyers that many Tea Party members of Congress insist they are very much against “crony capitalism”, against how time-sensitive bills desperately needed by citizens are treated as "freight trains to be loaded with special interests and sweetheart deals" to repay and endear campaign money enablers of some Congress people.
Will he and his co-sponsors get it reversed?
You might want to give your home Congressional representative a call and mention your outrage at one more shameless act of fraud perpetrated on us by our supposed representatives in Congress. Here are two toll-free numbers to the Congressional switchboard. 1-866-338-1015, 1-877-210-5351.
[cross-posted on correntewire]