[Ip-health] Where does Pfizer spend its money on Capitol Hill? - Sunlight Foundation Blog

Claire Cassedy claire.cassedy at keionline.org
Thu May 1 13:02:51 PDT 2014


Where does Pfizer spend its money on Capitol Hill?

by Palmer Gibbs MAY 1, 2014, 2:43 P.M.

As Pfizer looks across the Atlantic in a renewed bid to acquire United
Kingdom-based AstraZeneca, the pharmaceutical giant has its eye on the
billions of dollars it could save in taxes if the deal goes through. On
Capitol Hill, the company has worked to exercise its considerable influence
on the issue of corporate taxation and tax reform.

Although the pharmaceutical company lobbies Washington heavily on various
health issues, taxes – and specifically corporate taxation – come in at a
close second. Lobbying disclosure reports show that, in the first three
months of 2014, Pfizer spent $3,530,000 lobbying on many topics, including
health care, drug safety and taxes.

Of that total, Pfizer doled out the lion’s share – almost $3.2 million – to
its in-house team to work on a variety of issues. But the company also paid
two outside firms a total of $100,000 solely to lobby on taxes.

The Washington Tax & Public Policy Group got $70,000 for three months’
worth of lobbying work on international tax and corporate tax reform, as
well as the EXPIRE Act. That bill, which passed through the Senate Finance
Committee, would, among other things, extend certain tax credits for
research and development, on which Pfizer places a premium. In fact, in
announcing its offer for AstraZeneca, Pfizer CEO Ian Read said, “We believe
patients all over the globe would benefit from our shared commitment to
R&D, which is critical to the future success of the pharmaceutical
industry, in the form of potential new therapies that help to fight some of
the world’s most feared diseases, such as cancer.”

Washington Tax & Public Policy Group’s three lobbyists – Gregory Nickerson,
Jan Fowler and Brian Diffell – representing Pfizer’s interests to Congress
all previously worked in various congressional offices and committees.
Nickerson served as a tax counsel on the powerful House Ways and Means
Committee from 2001 to 2005.

The remaining $30,000 went to Federal Policy Group to lobby on “general tax
issues.” One of the company’s lobbyists dispatched on behalf of Pfizer was
Ken Kies, who worked on Capitol Hill for key tax-writing agencies in two
separate stints: Kies was the chief of staff for three years on the Joint
Taxation Committee and the chief Republican tax counsel for five years on
the House Ways and Means Committee.

In announcing its proposed $98.6 billion offer to purchase its British
rival, Pfizer said it “believes the strategic, business and financial
rationale for a transaction is compelling.” The company said it would
maintain its headquarters in Manhattan but would incorporate the newly
formed firm in the U.K. – a move the Wall Street Journal reported would
save Pfizer about $1 billion in taxes every year. Reuters is predicting
that Pfizer's move could set off a stampede of U.S. corporations seeking
overseas shotgun weddings before Congress shuts down the lucrative tax

Sunlight's Influence Explorer tool shows that since 1989, Pfizer has spent
upwards of $137.7 million lobbying Congress on a variety of issues. In the
same amount of time, the company and its employees have given at least
$43.4 million to politicians and organizations.

For the 2014 cycle alone, Influence Explorer data show Pfizer and
Pfizer-affiliated employees contributed $1,398,969 to politicians, PACs and
campaign committees. William Steere Jr., who was Pfizer’s CEO and board
chairman in the ’90s, cut a $32,400 check to the National Republican
Senatorial Committee in March 2013. That same month, Read, Pfizer’s current
CEO, gave $5,000 to TRUST PAC, the leadership PAC associated with Michigan
Republican Rep. Fred Upton. Upton chairs the House Energy & Commerce
Committee, whose Health Subcommittee oversees many issues including drug
regulations and medical research.

In February 2013, in a show of down-the-middle bipartisanship, Pfizer –
which makes a boatload of popular medicines, ranging from Advil to Lipitor
to Viagra to Xanax – gave money to two Democratic groups and two GOP
groups. It contributed $15,000 each to the National Republican Senatorial
Committee, the Republican National Committee, the Democratic Congressional
Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

The company gave another $15,000 to the National Republican Congressional
Committee, and $10,000 to the a joint fundraising committee affiliated with
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, the Boehner for Speaker Committee.

Pfizer also digs in on the political fundraiser circuit. Party Time records
show the company and its PAC have hosted 22 parties since 2008, with
fundraiser beneficiaries including members on key tax committees. Pfizer
threw a party for Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., who chairs the House Ways and
Means Committee, and for Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., who sits on
the House Financial Services Committee. In 2013, the pharmaceutical company
also hosted three parties for Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who serves on the
Senate Finance Committee’s taxation and health care subcommittees.

And Pfizer cozied up to AstraZeneca in 2010, when their PACs co-hosted two
fundraisers benefitting Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa.

Reuters recently reported that the British Parliament is planning to
investigate the proposed merger, and that Read, Pfizer’s CEO, is in the
U.K. to talk with legislators and investors about the offer. If it goes
through, the Guardian reported it would be the "biggest foreign takeover of
a British firm" as well as present concerns about staffing cuts in the U.K.

AstraZeneca has until May 26 to decide its next move.

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