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Dems, Drugs And Dollars: The (Small) Cost Of Doing Business?

AP

In their stump speeches and debates, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama often talk about pushing back against the Washington influence of the powerful pharmaceutical lobby and keeping drug company profits in check.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, which closely monitors lobbying and campaign contributions, the pharmaceutical industry is the most powerful lobby in Washington having spent approximately $1.2 billion over the past nine years on the effort.

So, given the campaign rhetoric, it may come as a surprise to some that Clinton and Obama--again, according to www.opensecrets.org--are the top two recipients of pharmaceutical/health products industry money in this year's election cycle.

Based on the most recent reports, Clinton has received $283,000 and Obama has collected $276,000. John McCain, with $86,000, is a distant 13th on the top-20 list which includes presidential and congressional candidates, although I presume he will quickly move up the ranks. The next campaign coffers update should be available on the CRP's web site around Feburary 21st.

Even Democratic Congressman John Dingell, a thorn in the industry's side as the Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee which has launched several probes into various drug company-related issues, ranks higher than McCain with $113,000. And for the first time since the CRP has been keeping track, the industry is giving more money to Democrats than to Republicans. Historically, it's been about two-to-one in favor of the GOP.

Not surprisingly, the biggest companies are the biggest givers. Amgen , the world's largest biotechnology company, tops the list having given $687,000, so far. And Pfizer , the world's largest pharmaceutical company, is a close second with $649,000 in campaign contributions. Both companies have evenly spilt the money between Dems and the GOP.

Amgen is in the middle of a battle with the government over its huge anemia drug franchise. AMGN's Chairman and CEO, Kevin Sharer, has personally given money to several candidates on both sides of the political aisle. While Pfizer's Chairman and CEO, Jeff Kindler, has made two contributions and both of them to Democrats--Clinton and his home state Senator and former presidential candidate Christopher Dodd.

As I've pointed out before, that's in stark contrast to the politics of Kindler's predecessor, Hank McKinnell, who was one of the "Bush Rangers"--a top giver and fundraiser for the President.

The corporate contributions, frankly, are lunch money for companies that in PFE's case takes in annual revenue of more than $45 billion and in AMGN's case books more than $14 billion in sales. As the Executive Director of the Center for Responsive Politics, Sheila Krumholz said, "This is a small cost of doing business."

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com

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