There seems to be a lot of buzz about a Washington Post story published yesterday which reported that an email from Rep. Colleen Hanabusa’s deputy chief of staff described a potentially illegal attempt to coordinate between Hanabusa’s campaign and “independent” corporate campaign support from a pharmaceutical industry organization (“Congressional aide’s e-mail shows overture from drug lobby“).
The Post reported:
A senior aide to Rep. Colleen W. Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) told his colleagues late last month that the nation’s top drug lobby had agreed to run a campaign supporting the congresswoman’s challenge to Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz and wanted to coordinate it with her strategists.
Such an effort, described in an e-mail obtained by The Washington Post, could run afoul of campaign finance laws, which prohibit candidates and their staff from substantial discussions with interest groups about their independent political activities.
The Star-Advertiser’s Derrick DePledge followed with a story today (“Hanabusa aide’s email counters campaign law“).
Hanabusa’s campaign denied any attempt to coordinate efforts with the pharmaceutical group, instead blaming Raymond for improperly overstepping his authority.
According to DePledge:
(Peter) Boylan, a Hanabusa campaign spokesman, described Raymond as a congressional staffer who was trying to inflate his influence and has no role in the Hanabusa campaign.
“This was an incident where a staffer inflated his influence and mischaracterized a group’s willingness to support,” Boylan said. “There have been no discussions between the campaign, the official office, and PhRMA about independent expenditures.”
Perhaps. But Raymond is listed as the second-highest paid employee in Hanabusa’s Congressional office who was paid $28,110 for the three-month period between January 1 and March 31, 2013, not simply a run-of-the-mill staffer.
Back in May, Raymond extended an email invitation to other Democratic House staffers on behalf of the Hanabusa campaign, soliciting other House members to “lend their name” as co-sponsors of a special event at Hanabusa’s Washington home.
From: “Christopher Raymond”
Thank you for sending me your email address. I have two questions for you. First — my boss is having a members only event at her house on June 26th to support her Senate campaign and I wanted to extend the invitation to your boss. Right now we are looking for members to lend their name to the invitation even if they do not plan on attending. Do you think your boss would be willing to lend their name?
Second — we are asking if members might be willing to donate at least $1k to her Senate race. I attached a sample from our most recent poll. We have a 22% lead in the primary but as my boss was deciding on what seat to run for (Governor or Senate) we were out raised by 4 to 1 ($250k to $1.1mill). Any help would be a big help. Let me know if you have any questions or concerns.
The apparent interest of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) in backing Hanabusa’s Senate campaign is apparently related to the position she has staked out on a key piece of legislation, described in a May 23 article by Civil Beat (“Hanabusa And Schatz Differ Over Making Drug Companies Pay“).
According to Civil Beat:
Rockefeller’s proposal, supported by Schatz, would alter the way outpatient prescription drugs are handled for people who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid. Before the Medicare Modernization Act of 2006, people who qualified for both programs had their medication covered through Medicaid. Drug companies paid the federal government a rebate to keep down federal Medicaid costs.
Under the 2006 law, people got their drugs through Medicare, Part D. The changes affected about 32,000 Hawaii residents who are eligible for both programs. Under the new system, the recipients can sign up for a private prescription health plan. In theory, drug companies offer health plans a discount on the cost of medicine instead of a rebate. Those discounts lower the amount the federal government pays the health plans to subsidize the cost of offering the drugs. The drug companies, meanwhile, still offer rebates to the federal government in order to be made available to Medicaid patients.
But a Kaiser Foundation report noted that drug companies are giving smaller discounts than what they used to pay in the form of rebates, “which means that Medicare pays higher prices than Medicaid would for low-income enrollees,” the report stated.
All part of this already very heated primary campaign.