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BMS, DLA Piper Distance Selves From Healthcare Town Hall Disruptions

Bristol-Myers Squibb and its lobby group DLA Piper are distancing themselves from FreedomWorks, the Republican pressure group that (in its own words) sends "aggressive," "disgruntled activists" to healthcare reform town hall meetings to shout down congressmen who favor reform. BNET previously reported that BMS had retained DLA Piper as its lobbyist, and that DLA Piper employs former U.S. House majority leader Dick Armey, who in turn is the chairman of FreedomWorks, the group that urges its activists to show up and yell at people who want to find out what the healthcare reform bill might actually end up saying. BNET also noted that BMS has $400 million in windfall revenue on the line if the reform bill allows Medicare Part D to negotiate its own drug prices.

Yesterday, both BMS and DLA Piper said they did not control FreedomWorks and had not asked the organization to do these things on its behalf. BMS gave this statement:

The law firm, DLA Piper, is among the law firms retained by Bristol-Myers Squibb. However, Bristol-Myers Squibb has never retained Dick Armey. Further, Bristol-Myers Squibb has no connection whatsoever with an organization called Freedom Works.
(Readers will note BNET added that comment to previous items, here and here, on this topic.)

A DLA Piper spokesperson also spoke to BNET yesterday, and said it was "not accurate" that DLA Piper had installed Armey as chair of FreedomWorks and "not true" that DLA Piper in any way controls the organization. It's Armey's organization that is independent of DLA Piper, the spokesperson said.

When asked, however, whether DLA Piper had asked Armey to desist from his activities, the spokesperson said he did not know. BNET offered to publish a verbatim a statement of reasonable length from DLA Piper on the matter -- as we did for BMS -- but no statement arrived yet. I'll add it to this item if/when it does.

In the meantime, BMS and DLA Piper might want to ask themselves some questions about this relationship with Armey and FreedomWorks: BMS's position on healthcare reform does not say it wants to end the ban on Medicare negotiating prices; BMS has a considerable incentive to maintain the status quo; BMS retained DLA Piper; DLA Piper employs Armey; and Armey controls FreedomWorks.

Even if you give all the parties the benefit of the doubt and assume they're acting independently, they're still connected by a chain of fees. It may be appearance and not substance, but it's an appearance that is unattractive at best.

Previously: