Drug companies have spent at least $5.9 million — and perhaps as much as $15.2 million — lobbying the Tennessee legislature the past five years, more than doubling the financial firepower of police groups and their allies, reports Chas Sisk.
More than 100 professional lobbyists have been hired since 2009 to press the cases of pharmaceutical makers and their suppliers. Their influence has helped stop legislation that would restrict sales of pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in methamphetamine manufacturing.
Drug companies also have contributed at least $637,600 to lawmakers’ campaigns, over and above the millions spent on lobbyists. These donations have placed the drug industry among the top givers to legislative campaigns.
The interests of drug companies are wide-ranging. But a spokeswoman for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, which has lobbied the General Assembly and represents many pharmaceutical companies that also have done so, said pseudoephedrine regulation has been among their top issues over the past five years.
…Hard figures on lobbying are difficult to come by in Tennessee. State law requires companies and organizations that hire lobbyists only to report their spending with ranges, not exact dollars. But a Tennessean analysis of lobbying records has found that 35 pharmaceutical companies, two of their major suppliers and three trade associations have hired 107 individual lobbyists since 2009. These companies have spent between $5.9 million and $15.2 million.
And those figures may not include spending that does not relate directly to contacting state lawmakers, such as public relations and lobbying local officials.
By comparison, law enforcement groups, organizations representing local governments and others have spent between $2.8 million and $6 million. Records show this broad coalition has hired only 23 lobbyists, often to work on issues unrelated to methamphetamine production.
The mismatch in resources has been a factor in keeping more restrictions on pseudoephedrine at bay.
“I would say they certainly have had an impact,” said Martin Police Chief David Moore, president of the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police. “Certainly, we don’t have PR firms working for us.”