Nobody on Capitol Hill takes kindly to a spreadsheet that lines up their campaign contributions with their floor votes. But that's what Maplight.org, a nonprofit database operation, has just done, producing a mashup with the tally from the Senate's vote Monday on drug importation and 6 1/2 years of campaign finance data.
How The Big Recipients Of Drugmakers' Contributions Voted On Drug Importation
|Max Baucus, MT||D||$261,020||No|
|Richard Burr, NC||R||301,898||No|
|Orrin Hatch, UT||R||262,950||No|
|Joe Lieberman, CT||I||199,540||No|
|Mitch McConnell, KY||R||225,900||Yes|
|Arlen Specter, PA||D||353,550||Yes|
Importation is illegal. Advocates of legalizing it say that American consumers would save $100 billion over 10 years, as competition would force prices down for prescription drugs. The pharmaceutical industry and the Food and Drug Administration say drug safety would be jeopardized. When importation was proposed as an amendment to health care overhaul, the Senate rejected it -- 51 for importation and 48 against, with 60 needed to approve.
And if you look at the Maplight analysis, you'll find--little surprise here--that senators voting nay have averaged 66 percent more in campaign contributions from Big Pharma than senators who voted yea. The difference: $85,812 vs. $51,803, spread over the period Jan. 1, 2003, to Aug. 12, 2009. Not a lot of dollars if you prorate it, but it is consistent.
Maplight earlier ran the numbers on a couple other pharma-related votes--a Senate Finance Committee vote on Medicare drug prices three months ago and, in a less refined analysis, a 2007 Senate vote on an earlier prescription drug bill.
Political scientists have devoted years to debating the potential links between votes and money. The predominant wisdom: money doesn't move votes, it follows them. Donors tend to give to lawmakers who already are on their side.
The Maplight data don't settle that debate. What they do point out, however, is the enduring relationships between lawmakers and interest groups, and the monetary cement that helps them bond.