Corporations seeking multimillion-dollar favors in Washington send big-money lobbyists to Congress and cash in at taxpayer expense. Here's an example:
On Dec. 19, the Amgen pharmaceutical firm pleaded guilty to illegal marketing of an anti-anemia drug, and paid a record-breaking $762 million penalty.
But only two weeks later, during the "fiscal cliff" showdown in Congress, high-paid Amgen lobbyists scored a windfall: Language was sneaked into the fiscal compromise that delays Medicare price limits for two more years on a different Amgen pill for kidney dialysis. Analysts say the delay will cost U.S. taxpayers up to $500 million.
The two-year delay was inserted furtively by the Senate Finance Committee, and lawmakers didn't discover it until it was too late to remove. "Opponents had no way to challenge the provision, as there was a single vote on the entire fiscal package," The New York Times reported.
Amgen has lavished cash donations on members of the committee -- $59,000 to Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and $67,750 to Max Baucus, D-Mont. -- as well as $73,000 to Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Further, Amgen poured money into charities and committees led by the senators.
It's galling that a crooked corporation was able to grab a $500 million gift from taxpayers, just two weeks after it pleaded guilty to a major crime. That's what slick lobbyists accomplish on Capitol Hill in Washington.