POLITICS - Special Interest Money

The Republicans want the issue of special interest money to be absent in the 2004 election. They'd love to see the Dems wreck each other over the subject, but they can't touch Kerry or Edwards in the national election.

Why? Because special interest money controls the very core of the Administration.

Matt Bivens writes this in The Nation about the Medicare legislation that was recently passed:
Public Citizen is calling for an investigation of Billy Tauzin, the Republican Congressman from Louisiana, who had a key role in writing the Medicare prescription drug law -- and now that he's done with that, got a big thank-you in the form of a sweet offer to lobby in Washington for the pharmaceutical industry. The compensation package, rumored to be somewhere from $1 million to $2.5 million a year, would be "likely the largest compensation package on record for anyone at a trade association," Public Citizen says. Tauzin hasn't said yet whether he'll accept it; he seems to have been given pause by the drumbeat of indignation that's risen at the idea.

"The record size of the [drug industry] contract and the fact that the offer became public less than two months after the drug industry scored a major victory with this legislation raises serious questions about whether Representative Tauzin's actions were tainted," says Joan Claybrook, Public Citizen's president. "While Rep. Tauzin was writing the bill, he put out the word that he was retiring from Congress and looking for new work. This doesn't pass the smell test."

Tauzin is not the only politician who seems to be cashing in his chips with the drug industry. Tom Scully, the White House point person on the Medicare bill, recently quit government to go work for law firms that represent pharmaceutical interests. "So we have a situation where the lead administration person on the bill and the lead manager on the bill in the House of Representatives are going to work for the pharmaceutical companies," Pelosi says. "I think it would be important to the American people to know when the negotiations for these positions began."


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