WASHINGTON _ Amgen Inc. and its political action committee(PAC) in the past year contributed nearly $100,000 to nationalDemocratic and Republican election committees and key members ofCongress.

Of the handful of biotech companies that make politicalcontributions, Amgen's is enormous compared to those from otherfirms. BioWorld examined the campaign contributions made by thelargest biotech firms and their PACs at the Federal ElectionCommission here.

Overall, Amgen, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., contributed more to theGOP than Democratic party headquarters. (A breakdown of thosecontributions follows.)

"Our contributions reflect our support for both political parties," saidPete Teeley, vice president of government and public relations. "Wecontributed to both sides of the aisle as we have done in the past."

"One of the ways special interest groups make their voices heard is togive money," said Common Cause lobbyist Suzanne Greenfield.Common Cause lobbies for campaign finance reform. "Campaign andparty contributions are just another way that special interestsinfluence the course of legislation pending before Congress. We seeit in every industry," she told BioWorld Today.

Immunex was second in line behind Amgen, with $1,500 contributedby the Seattle company in the past year. "We contributed that moneyto the Republican National Committee for an inaugural gala attendedby eight out of 10 members of our state's Congressional delegationwho are Republicans," said Robin Shapiro, Immunex spokeswoman.

San Francisco-based Genentech Inc.'s GenenPAC, which is fundedby employee contributions, has not made any disbursements in thepast year, said Genentech spokesman Jim Weiss. In 1994, GenenPACcontributed $2,000 to Rep. Lynn Schenk (D-Calif.) for carrying theindustry's banner during Congressional debate on health care reform.(See BioWorld Today, Aug. 17, 1994, p. 1.)

"Campaign contributions are appropriate for companies that haveearnings but in our case it's not an appropriate use of theshareholder's money," said Jim Barrett, chairman and CEO ofGenetic Therapy Inc., Gaithersburg, Md.

Most of Amgen's contributions were corporate contributions, so-called "soft money," a term used by a Federal Elections Commissionspokeswoman.

According to federal campaign finance laws, corporations areprohibited from contributing to Senate, House or Presidentialpolitical races. But they can contribute to nonfederal campaigns.

Federal law, however, does require that corporations report theircontributions to these nonfederal campaigns. Corporate contributionsalso are not subject to the dollar limits imposed on contributions tothe House and Senate races, said the Federal Elections Commissionspokeswoman.

Amgen's high corporate and PAC contribution profile is much morevisible than even the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers ofAmerica (PhRMA). PhRMA's PAC contributed a total of $20,000 in1994 and 1995. Association policy prohibits discussion of the PACcontributions andor rationale behind them, said PhRMA spokesmanSteve Berchem.

No contributions have been made in the last year by theBiotechnology Industry Organization, which does not have a PACr.

A breakdown of Amgen's contributions during the past 12 monthsincludes:

* $15,000 to the Democratic Congressional CampaignCommittee, April 29, 1994.

* $30,000 to the Republican Party-sponsored Senate andHouse Dinner, June 15, 1994.

* $15,000 to the Democratic National Committee for non-federal campaigns, Oct. 15, 1994.

* $5,000 to the Democratic National Committee for non-federal campaigns, July 19, 1994.

* $5,000 to the Republican National Committee NationalState Elections Committee, Nov. 21, 1994.

* $20,000 to the Republican National Committee NationalState Elections Committee, Feb. 23, 1995.

In 1995, Amgen's PAC contributed to the following key members ofCongress. According to federal campaign finance laws, corporatePACs can contribute to individuals but total PAC contributions for asingle race are limited to $10,000:

* Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), member of the Senate BudgetCommittee, $1,000.

* House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.),$1,000.

* House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.), $1,000.

* House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas(R-Calif.), $500.

* Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-NM), $1,000.

* House Commerce Committee Chairman Thomas Bliley (R-Va.), $1,000. Bliley's committee will consider FDA reformlegislation.

* Rep. Susan Molinari (R-NY), $1,000. n

-- Michele L. Robinson Washington Editor

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.