Pharma Election Money Backs Obama

Last Updated Aug 19, 2008 12:48 PM EDT

obama1.jpgAfter years of funneling campaign money to Republican politicians, the drug business has suddenly decided that the Democrats -- who took control of Congress in the 2006 elections -- will win the White House in the fall.

From 1990 until just last year, pharma political campaign contribution money on the federal level went solidly to Republicans over Democrats, sometimes at margins of almost three to one, according to this fascinating data set from the Center for Responsive Politics.

That's not news, of course. But in this presidential election cycle, the pharma money hose has suddenly started spraying the Democrats.

The split of donations is now 50-50 -- a previously unheard of level of evenhandedness. At first glance, this chart of current donations suggests that drug companies are hedging their bets rather than voting for Obama:

chart.jpg But look closely at the raw dollar totals. Pharmaceutical companies upped their donations to Democrats by $2.9 million, while reducing their donations to the GOP by $3.9 million. Both parties have received about $9 million from the biz this year. That looks much more like a vote for Obama than McCain.

Click on the "recipients" tab and you'll notice that drug/healthcare companies really seem to believe that this is not going to be the Republicans' year. Here are the top four recipients of drug money:

Obama: $848,00 Clinton: $639,429 Romney: $410,411 McCain: $347,375
Companies better hope that McCain doesn't win â€"- the industry has essentially funded his enemies at every turn of the campaign.

As Pharmalot pointed out this morning, Pfizer CEO Jeff Kindler is off to Denver to make nice to the Democrats at their convention. Kindler can show Obama's people this chart, which shows that Pfizer donated $1.1 million in a 50-50 split between the parties. Kindler can make himself out to be a bipartisan guy. Pfizer is the largest donator in the business.

But Kindler probably shouldn't show the Dems the same chart from the 2006 election cycle, in which Pfizer donated 67-32 in favor of Republicans.

That change of heart is typical of the industry: In 2006, Abbott Labs donated 82 percent of its money to the Republicans. This year, some Abbott donators are wearing shiny new donkey pins even though 60 percent of their $653,667 still went to Republicans.

Most companies are doubling down, around the 50-50 mark. Only Johnson & Johnson and Roche have donated a majority of their funds to the Democrats this cycle.

Lastly, I did my own search of the CRP database to look at companies' political action committees. Companies often encourage their employees to donate to the company PAC so that the firm can direct their money in a way that most helps the company itself. This is from Pfizer's PAC policy page:

When choosing to make a contribution to a candidate, the Pfizer PAC considers candidates' views on issues that impact Pfizer and its employees as well as the presence of Pfizer facilities or employees in the candidate's district or state.
AstraZeneca's is a little more vague:
AZ PAC support is divided equally between federal and state level, and allocated among various candidates according to specific recommendations from the company's government affairs organization and employee PAC members.
How much money did your company's PAC give in the 2008 election cycle? Take a look:
Pfizer PAC: $134,686 Wyeth PAC: $133,922 Roche PAC: $81,054 AstraZeneca PAC: $72,271 BMS PAC: $68,483 Novartis PAC: $66,115 Sanofi PAC: $43,531 Amgen PAC: $38,600 J&J PAC: $22,432 Teva PAC: $21,650 Merck PAC: $14,875 Novo Nordisk PAC: $3,890 Abbott PAC: $1,609 Bayer PAC: $1,518 GlaxoSmithKline PAC: 0 Lilly PAC: $-1,188 (Yes, that's a negative number, suggesting that the PAC returned money to a donor.)
Source: Center for Responsive Politics database, searched on Aug. 19, 2008.