Pharma lobby directed millions to conservative ‘dark money’ groups last year

Center for Responsive Politics/
November 16, 2018
By Karl Evers-Hillstrom

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) gave millions in grants to pro-GOP “dark money” groups last year, according to the most recent annual tax filings reviewed by the Center for Responsive Politics Friday.

Among the largest grants are $2.5 million to America First Policies — a nonprofit dedicated to promoting President Donald Trump’s agenda — and $1.5 million to the American Action Network, which gave $22 million to the conservative Congressional Leadership Fund this election cycle. Both groups spent millions on ads in support of Trump’s tax cuts.

American Conservative Union ($150,000) and Charles Koch’s Americans for Prosperity ($225,000) were also among conservative dark money nonprofits to receive significant funds from the largest pharmaceutical trade group.

PhRMA’s $1.19 million grant to Center Forward stands out, as the dark money nonprofit spent nearly $1.3 million to aid Democrats this election cycle. The group says it seeks bipartisan solutions on various issues and advocated to preserve a tax credit for rare-disease medicine research in the GOP tax bill, a position supported by PhRMA.

The group gave to both liberal and conservative causes, though the numbers tend to be higher for conservative groups. It gave $150,000 to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee and $350,000 to the Republican State Leadership Committee, as well as $325,000 to the Republican Governors Association and $305,000 to the Democratic Governors Association.

“PhRMA works with many organizations with which we have both agreements and disagreements on public policy issues, and believe this dialogue is essential to advancing solutions that are in the best interest for patients,” PhRMA spokesperson Holly Campbell said in a statement on the tax filing.

The group gave $1 million to the National Republican Redistricting Trust, founded primarily to help GOP candidates win House seats in gerrymandered Democrat-controlled states. Another conservative group, the Job Creators Network, received $500,000.

Another $500,000 went to the Coalition for Affordable Health Coverage, which aims to eliminate the public exchange healthcare model and replace it with a private system. The group also gave $1.75 million to the Healthcare Leadership Council, which similarly pushes for “increased competition” over price controls.

The trade group had much more money to spend than ever before last year, raising more than $455 million, up from $270 million in 2016. Thus, it gave out $31 million in grants to other groups in 2017, up from $26 million the year prior. The grants are not reported to the FEC as they not considered to be “political” in nature even if the recipient of the grant ultimately spends some of that money on political activities. Thus, the grants are not revealed until yearly IRS tax filings filed 10-and-a-half months after the end of PhRMA’s fiscal year.

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