The "Cajun ambassador" is going with the drug industry after all.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America announced yesterday that retiring Rep. W.J."Billy" Tauzin (R-La.), chairman of the powerful House Committee on Energy and Commerce until he stepped down from that post earlier this year after complaints about his job hunting, will be the trade group's new chief.
Zell Miller, Bound for K Street (The Washington Post, Dec 9, 2004)
Ford Retools Lobby Shop (The Washington Post, Nov 25, 2004)
Lobbyist on Base in California (The Washington Post, Nov 18, 2004)
Schwarzenegger Muscling Against Base Closings (The Washington Post, Nov 11, 2004)
Playing a GOP Part for Hollywood (The Washington Post, Nov 4, 2004)
More Special Interests
PhRMA, the trade association for the drug industry, had approached Tauzin in January while he was in negotiations for the top lobbying job at the Motion Picture Association of America. More importantly, the House committee oversees the drug industry as well as the telecommunications, media and entertainment industries, and Tauzin, whose committee shared jurisdiction over Medicare, had shortly before helped write and promote a controversial Medicare prescription drug benefit for the elderly.
Tauzin said there were no dealings with the drug industry in exchange for his work on the bill. But he stepped down from the chairmanship in early February and put off further job talks.
Tauzin, 61, also spent most of the year fighting for his life after he was diagnosed with intestinal cancer. Tauzin told our colleague Jeff Birnbaum yesterday that he is feeling well and, in fact, is well. He accepted his new job in part because of his illness.
"When you become a patient, you get a sense of how incredibly valuable these medicines are," he said. In a statement released by the trade group, Tauzin said further, "As I worked through my recovery, I realized that I wanted to work in an industry whose mission is no less than saving and enhancing lives."
Tauzin's appointment took flak from Public Citizen, the consumer advocacy group. "It's a sad commentary on politics in Washington that a member of Congress who pushed through a major piece of legislation benefiting the drug industry, gets the job leading that industry," Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook said in a statement.
The Center for Responsive Politics reported that Tauzin raised more than $218,000 in campaign contributions from pharmaceutical manufacturers over the past 15 years, with $91,500 of that in the 2002 election cycle, the first cycle for Tauzin as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce.
Public Citizen called on Congress to prohibit its members from negotiating for jobs while in Congress; increase the waiting period before a former lawmaker could lobby his former colleagues, from one to three years; and eliminate privileges that give former lawmakers access to the Senate and House floors and other members-only areas.
Tauzin, who has served stints as a Republican and a Democrat, starts his new job Jan. 3. He succeeds Alan Holmer, who had announced in January that he would be retiring.
Former EPA Chief Sets Up Shop
Former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Christine Todd Whitman, who left the Bush administration last year after bruising fights within the administration, is setting up the Whitman Strategy Group, a consulting shop focusing on, of course, environmental issues.
The firm is already up and running in New Jersey, the home state of the former GOP governor, and a D.C. office will be opened next month by EPA officials Jessica Furey and Susan Spencer Mulvaney, who this week announced their plans to resign.
The Whitman group plans to provide policy and regulatory expertise in energy and power, water quality and other issues to corporations, governments and countries "interested in improving their environmental stewardship," Whitman said.
Creating the company "is a way to stay involved in public policy and make a difference," she said in an interview. The group will have "the capacity" to lobby "but that's not what we are about."