Asbury Park Press

N.J. Congressman Big Proponent Of Drug Industry

Asbury Park Press — Monday, December 8, 2003

By LEDYARD KING
GANNETT NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON — As top lawmakers worked last month on the details of a bill providing seniors a Medicare prescription drug benefit, Rep. Mike Ferguson, R-N.J., gently reminded them of the harm price controls on drugs would have on the pharmaceutical industry.

Before the House narrowly approved the measure Nov. 22, Ferguson helped convince wavering members. Since his election in 2000, the Somerset County Republican has been one of the drug industry's most loyal allies. Drug makers have given the two-term congressman almost $256,000 in political contributions since the beginning of 1999 when he was running for the seat he now holds, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. He raised more than $6 million during that period from all donors. Drug companies are one of Ferguson's primary constituencies. Several major companies are located in or near his northern New Jersey district. He also sits on the Health Subcommittee, which oversees prescription drug issues.

Tops among the pharmaceutical givers to Ferguson, 33, is Schering-Plough Corp., the Kenilworth-based company that makes the allergy drug Claritin. The company's political action committee and its executives have given a combined $65,200 from 1999 through 2003, according to the center.

"Ferguson has been their go-to guy," said Staci Berger, program director of New Jersey Citizens Action, which opposed the Medicare bill President Bush is scheduled to sign today. "He's a free-market guy and he makes no bones about it."

How much influence Ferguson, mentioned as a possible future candidate for governor or Senate, wielded on the final bill is hard to say.

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