What's the difference between accepting political cash from drug companies and accepting it from drug company executives? That's the $68,000 question.
In a House speech last week, Rep. James C. Greenwood (R-Pa.) denounced Democrats who accuse Republicans of supporting the Medicare prescription drug law because pharmaceutical companies give generously to the GOP. "As one who has never received a contribution from a drug company," he said, his motives were clean.
True enough, the six-term lawmaker doesn't take money from the political action committees of drug companies or other corporations. But Greenwood is a leading House recipient of donations from employees and officials of drug companies: $68,325 in the 2002 election cycle and $30,300 so far in this year's campaign, according to records compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
Greenwood says there's a big difference between taking money from a PAC -- whose single-minded lobbyist is likely to ask for a key House vote a few days later -- and taking it from individuals who care about many other things as well, such as gun control, the environment, abortion. When a candidate rejects PAC money, he said, "you still accept contributions from individuals. That's all that's left."
But 10 of Greenwood's 2003-04 donors identify themselves as drug company presidents, six are vice presidents and another six are "executives" -- in other words, the type of people likely to have pharmaceutical concerns uppermost in mind. They include the president and vice president of the trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and the presidents of drug makers GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Merck & Co. Inc.
Mein Kampaign Ads
Want to talk about negative campaigning? Adolf Hitler is part of the 2004 presidential campaign.
The Nazi dictator first appeared on the campaign scene in a Web spot on the Internet site of the liberal activist group MoveOn.org as part of a contest in January. Now those same video clips are part of a new Bush-Cheney reelection ad on the campaign's Web site.
The 77-second Republican ad splices together video of Democrats Al Gore, Howard Dean and others, calling them John F. Kerry's "Coalition of the Wild-eyed." Interspersed among the clips are images of Hitler.
Back in January, Republicans were furious about the ad that ran briefly on the MoveOn.org site. Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie called it "the worst and most vile form of political hate speech."
Now, it is the Democrats' turn to be outraged. Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill called the spot disgusting. "The use of Adolf Hitler by any campaign, politician or party is simply wrong," she told the Associated Press.
In addition to appearing on the Bush-Cheney campaign Web site, the ad was sent electronically to 6 million supporters.
"We're using the video from MoveOn.org to show our supporters the type of vitriolic rhetoric being used by the president's opponents and John Kerry's surrogates," Scott Stanzel, a spokesman for the Bush-Cheney campaign, told the AP. The campaign, he said, would not take the spot down.
Staff researcher Lucy Shackelford contributed to this report.