Billy Tauzin, Wheeler dealer for PhRMA lobby and the Two-House MegaDeal Even Hollywood Wouldn’t Make

If you followed the career of Billy Tauzin while he was a power on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, you know that he supported further media & telecommunications deregulation, more media consolidation, and led an effort that would have undermined Internet network neutrality.  Tauzin, now head of the drug industry’s lobbying group PhRMA, recently brokered a sweet deal with the Obama White House on health care reform.  In order to secure support for a national heath care plan from a major industry lobbying group,  the Obama Administration agreed to a plan where drug manufactuers would provide some $80 billion in discounts and subsidies over the next ten years.  But the agreement, in my opinion, leaves the drug industry off the hook.

But here’s the Hollywood connection and why Tauzin’s wheeler-dealer skills have ended up working on behalf of PhRMA.  As Tauzin prepared to retire from Congress,  he sought much greener ($$$$) pastures, including taking over Jack Valenti’s role as head of the Motion Picture Association of America, MPAA.  According to Variety [Jan. 23, 2004], “negotiations between the MPAA and Tauzin had broken down because Tauzin wanted too much compensation. Valenti is one of the highest-paid lobbyists in Washington, pulling in more than $1 million a year, but Tauzin asked for hundreds of thousands of dollars more as well as a residence in both L.A. and New York.  “He was just over-reaching,” one source said.  Tauzin accepted “a more generous offer to become the pharmaceutical industry trade association’s top lobbyist…The offer from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America is said to be unprecedented for a Washington trade association. Tauzin currently chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees legislation affecting the telecom and media industries, as well as the pharmaceutical industry.”

In negotiating the deal with the Obama White House to protect the pharmaceutical industry from having to make meaningful contributions to national health care, Tauzin has clearly earned PhARMA’s “more generous offer” that trumped the MPAA.

Author: jeff

Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. A former journalist and filmmaker, Jeff's book on U.S. electronic media politics, entitled "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy" was published by The New Press in January 2007. He is now working on a new book about interactive advertising and the public interest.

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