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Congress Injected With Cash

For months now older Americans have been heading to Canada and Mexico to buy cheaper drugs because of skyrocketing costs inthe United States.

CBS News Correspondent Diana Olick reports the pharmaceutical industry, on the otherhand, is heading to Capitol Hill.

On Wednesday morning companies like Eli Lilly, Johnson and Johnson and Bristol-Myers held a fundraiser for Congressman Bill Thomas, R-Calif., the head of the committee working for prescription drug reform.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., says, "It's a new kind of protection racket, and it's bought them protection that would be the envy of the mob."

Politicians don't want the public to see big business working its will on lawmakers in fundraisers, like the one held on Wednesday.

Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., says,"What the pharmaceutical industry is doing is flooding this Congress, flooding both political parties, in an effort to prevent serious legislation from taking place."

A new report shows Chairman Thomas tops the list of legislators with the most money received from the pharmaceutical industry. Number two is Dennis Hastert, speaker of the house.

Larry Makinson of the Center For Responsive Politics says, "When Congress has to make the decision, amazingly money appears from nowhere from the industry involved, and that's precisely what's happened here."

In the last five years, the pharmaceutical industry has upped its contributions to Congress by fifty percent, and, in 1998, even beat out tobacco in the amount of money spent lobbying. In fact, only the insurance industry has spent more money lobbying congress.

Makinson says, "And there's a reason for the increase, pharmaceuticals are having a higher profile than ever on Capitol Hill. There are decisions about funding of Medicare, funding of prescription drugs through Medicare, that have to be made by Congress."

But lawmakers are in a tricky spot. It's an election year and they need all the money they can get. Problem is, they also need the support of older Americans, who vote more than any other group, but who also use the most prescription drugs.

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