Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Rep. Terry or Genentech?
WASHINGTON — Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb. — who joined more than 40 House members in using lobbyist-written speeches during the health care debate — said Monday that he would avoid that practice in the future.
A weekend New York Times article revealed the ghostwritten speeches, which related to specific provisions favored by biotechnology firm Genentech that were included in the health care legislation.
Monday, Terry stood by the substance of the speech but said that he would avoid lifting lobbyists' words in the future.
“I have been a longtime supporter of the biotechnology industry, which is important to Nebraska's future economic growth,” he said in a statement. “I felt the biotechnology provisions in the health care bill that were not being discussed were important to note. In the future, our office will make sure our words are clearly our own and not the result of cutting and pasting someone else's comments.”
Terry received a $1,000 campaign contribution earlier this year from the political action committee of Genentech's parent company, Swiss drug giant Roche. Terry's campaign also received two checks — one for $250 and one for $100 — from Genentech lobbyists working on the provisions in the health care bill, according to Terry's campaign manager Dave Boomer.
The contributions had nothing to do with Terry's use of the statement, Boomer said.
“These are individuals who are supportive of Lee's long-standing views on health care reform and encouraging job creation domestically in the bio industry,” Boomer said.
Terry wasn't the only one using the language Genentech had shopped around the hill. E-mails obtained by the New York Times show that the lobbyists drafted one statement for Democrats, another for Republicans.
The lobbyists, employed by Genentech and by two Washington law firms, were remarkably successful in getting the statements printed in the Congressional Record under the names of different members of Congress.
Genentech estimates that 42 House members picked up some of its talking points — 22 Republicans and 20 Democrats, an unusual bipartisan coup for lobbyists.
Congress members submit statements for publication — to “revise and extend” floor remarks — in the Congressional Record all the time. It is unusual for so many to match word for word. It is even more unusual to find clear evidence that the words originated with lobbyists.
The statements were not intended to change the bill, which was not open for much amendment during the debate, but to show bipartisan support for certain provisions. “This happens all the time. There was nothing nefarious about it,” said a lobbyist close to Genentech.
A lobbyist for Genentech had e-mailed a 427-word statement to Terry's office and suggested he put something similar into the Congressional Record.
“Madame Speaker, I have criticized many of the provisions of this bill and rightfully so,” the first paragraph started. “But in fairness, I do believe the sections relating to the creation of a market for biosimilar products is one area of the bill that strikes the appropriate balance in providing lower cost options to consumers without destroying a healthy and functioning industry in this country.”
Terry submitted those lines and others word-for-word, as if they were his own. Overall, he used about half of the statement sent by the lobbyist.
Nebraska State Sen. Tom White, a Democrat planning to run against Terry next year, was quick to use the ghostwriting revelations in a fundraising pitch.
“As the fate of health care reform hung in the balance, Lee Terry wasn't speaking for Nebraska families or small businesses. He was literally speaking for a special interest puppeteer,” White's fundraising pitch read.
Boomer responded by describing White as “Pelosi's puppet on big government health care.”
White also pointed out that Terry and Boomer both jumped on Terry's opponent in the last election, Democrat Jim Esch, when Esch was caught lifting material from a Brookings Institution report without attribution. Boomer was quoted at the time saying, “It's very disturbing to know that Mr. Esch and his staff cannot write a simple, well-documented article.”
at 9:42 AM