USING LAWMAKERS AS VENTRILOQUIST DUMMIES

After the landmark health insurance reform bill passed in November, several congress critters set forth their views about the legislation in statements inserted into the Congressional Record. For example, Rep. Michael Conaway of Texas made this comment: "I do believe the sections relating to the creation of a market for biosimilar products is one area of the bill that strikes the appropriate balance."

After the landmark health insurance reform bill passed in November, several congress critters set forth their views about the legislation in statements inserted into the Congressional Record. For example, Rep. Michael Conaway of Texas made this comment: “I do believe the sections relating to the creation of a market for biosimilar products is one area of the bill that strikes the appropriate balance.”

Rep. Lynn Jenkins of Kansas added her views: “I do believe the sections relating to the creation of a market for biosimilar products is one area of the bill that strikes the appropriate balance.” Also, Rep. Lee Terry of Nebraska put in his two-cents worth, declaring: “I do believe the sections relating to the creation of a market for biosimilar products is one area of the bill that strikes the appropriate balance.”

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Hmmm. I don’t know what “biosimilar products” are, but the comments by these three Republicans are not just similar, they are identical! Do all Republican lawmakers think exactly alike, or is something else going on here?

Something else. All three were parroting words written and handed to them by lobbyists for Genentech, a huge, Swiss-owned biotech corporation. Genentech just happens to have a lot of money riding on restricting this biosimilar market, so it was eager to have the official record on this provision of the health bill reflect its special-interest viewpoint.

Genentech lobbyists did not stop with the three Republicans. At least 22 Republican house members and 20 Democrats were willing to be spoon-fed Genentech’s views, all of them regurgitating language that the lobbyists wrote. Asked about the ethics of using lawmakers as ventriloquist dummies, one lobbyists said, “This happens all the time. There’s nothing nefarious about it.”

Wow, having it happen once is alarming. Having it happen “all the time” is appalling. And nefarious.

“Puppets in Congress,” The New York Times, November 17, 2009.

“In House, Many Spoke With One Voice: Lobbyists,'” The New York Times, November 15, 2009.

“Battling the bastards is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.”

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