Drug Makers Gave $1.9M To N.J. Politicians In 4 Years — Wednesday, September 24, 2003

By Lewis Krauskopf
Staff Writer

Pharmaceutical companies gave $1.9 million to state elected officials, candidates, and political party organizations over the past four years, a consumer advocacy group said Tuesday.

Two-thirds of the money in the period went to Republicans, although Democrats received more money from drug makers so far this year, the advocacy group, New Jersey Citizen Action, found in its report.

Citizen Action, which announced the report at a news conference in Trenton, said it analyzed campaign contribution reports from 1999 to 2003 in its effort to track the "habitual relationship" between state politics and the drug industry. The industry is one of the state's key employment sectors, and many of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies have their headquarters in New Jersey.

Citizen Action called on state Assembly and Senate candidates this year to sign a pledge refusing contributions from drug companies, in what it called its "Just Say No to Drug Money" pledge.

"Our elected officials are addicted to large campaign cash from drug companies, while New Jerseyans struggle to pay for prescription drugs," the group said in its report.

The report found that contributions to candidates spiked in 2001, the year of gubernatorial elections. Drug makers gave nearly $837,000 that year, $588,000 to Republicans.

Through July 2003, the report said, Democrats took in $191,450, vs. $178,750 by Republicans.

Schering-Plough Corp. of Kenilworth ranked as the single largest giver in the four-year period, with $442,000, followed by Pfizer Inc., Merck & Co., and Johnson & Johnson.

In a statement responding to the report, the industry's New Jersey trade group cited the medical contributions made by drug companies as well as their impact on the state's economy.

Pharmaceutical companies "have every right to lend their voice to the political process," said Bob Franks, president of the group, the Healthcare Institute of New Jersey.

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