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The New York Times reported this weekend that lobbyists for biotech company Genentech fully or partially wrote statements for more than a dozen House representatives of both parties.
The Times story doesn’t mention Rep. Bob Filner, D-Chula Vista, who represents much of the South Bay and all of Imperial County. But a statement by Filner, placed in the Nov. 7 Congressional Record, includes some wording that’s identical to language that Genentech reportedly provided to members of Congress.
The House debated the mammoth health-care reform bill on Nov. 7 and it passed, with Filner voting in favor.
The Times said:
Members of Congress submit statements for publication in the Congressional Record all the time, often with a decorous request to “revise and extend my remarks.” It is unusual for so many revisions and extensions to match up word for word. It is even more unusual to find clear evidence that the statements originated with lobbyists.
Filner’s statement says: “Let me repeat that for some of my friends on the other side of the aisle, this bill will create high-paying, high-quality jobs in healthcare delivery, technology and research in the United States.”
According to the Times article, the same wording appears in “the standard Democratic statement” written by the lobbyists.
Filner’s statement also includes this language that matches wording that the Times indicates as coming from the lobbyists: “I see this bill as an exciting opportunity to create the kind of jobs we so desperately need in this country while at the same time improving the lives of ALL Americans.”
At least two other Democratic representatives used the same language; one capitalized “ALL” while the other did not, the Times said.
Filner’s statement also says: “New health care exchanges and new demands on the health system to provide high-quality and cost-effective health care will create new opportunities and markets for our brightest technology minds.”
The Times reported that two Democratic representatives used the same “create new opportunities and markets for our brightest technology minds” wording. A spokesman for one of the representatives told the paper he received a draft statement from a Genentech lobbyist and “tweaked” a couple words.
I tried to reach Filner’s office last night and today. A representative for Filner’s office took a message this afternoon, but no one responded by this evening.
The Times, which ran its story under the headline “In House, Many Spoke With One Voice: Lobbyists’,” reported that:
Democrats emphasized the bill’s potential to create jobs in health care, health information technology and clinical research on new drugs.
Republicans opposed the bill, but praised a provision that would give the Food and Drug Administration the authority to approve generic versions of expensive biotechnology drugs, along the lines favored by brand-name companies like Genentech.
Lawmakers from both parties said it was important to conduct research on such biosimilar” products in the United States.
The Times said donors representing Genentech and its parent company, Roche, made contributions to some of the representatives who used its boilerplate language. But a Genentech official told the paper that “there was no connection between the contributions and the statements.”
Genentech’s political action committee has not given money to Filner, according to financial records.
Why did the lawmakers take the wording in the first place? The Times paraphrased the Genentech official as saying “Republicans and Democrats, concerned about the unemployment rate, were receptive to the company’s arguments about the need to keep research jobs in the United States.”
Filner has been in the news for other reasons this month. ABC News reported he’s “introduced the most private bills in the House this year.” Private bills are “pieces of stand-alone legislation that apply only to specific individuals, families or corporations.”