WASHINGTON _ Although biotechnology executives praise Rep.Lynn Schenk (D-Calif.) for carrying the industry's banner in the Housebattle for health care reform, they have not exactly showered her withcampaign contributions.Federal Election Commission data show that from Jan. 1 to June 30 ofthis year, executives of biotechnology companies have made personalcontributions to Schenk totaling about $10,000 (versus a total of$3,500 in 1993). Schenk has also received contributions from the threebiotechnology company political action committees (PACs) _ AmgenInc.'s PAC has contributed $2,500, Genentech Inc.'s PAC $2,000 andImmunex Corp.'s PAC $500. (For any given election, the maximumcontribution a PAC can make to an individual candidate is $10,000 _$5,000 for the primary race and $5,000 for the general election.)A few thousand dollars more have trickled in from top biotechnologyventure capitalists in 1994, including Brook Byers of Kleiner, Perkins,Caufield & Byers in Menlo Park, Calif., and Anthony Evnin ofVenrock Associates in New York.To put these numbers in perspective, Schenk's total campaign receiptsfrom all sources between Jan. 1, 1993 and June 30, 1994 were$855,561 _ with about half coming from PACs and half coming fromindividuals.Naturally, executives from San Diego biotechnology companies suchas Gensia Inc., Alliance Pharmaceutical Corp., Advanced TissueSciences Inc., Prizm Pharmaceuticals and Molecular Biosystems Inc.are among Schenk's top biotechnology contributors. San Diego islocated in Schenk's district (the 49th) and is home to about 115biotechnology companies.Although Schenk has received very little money from out-of-statebiotechnology companies, some argue that Schenk's activism oncritical issues in the House could be worth millions to the industry. Shesuccessfully lobbied to remove a breakthrough drug committee fromearly drafts of health care legislation and, more recently, engineered alast-minute change in the House Democratic leadership bill.Gephardt Praises WorkMajority Leader Richard Gephardt (Ill.) praised her for removing aprescription drug payment review commission and certain rebaterequirements from the bill just hours before it was introduced. "Byworking so hard to reflect the concerns of the biotechnology industry,Congresswoman Schenk has helped make this bill even more effectiveand responsive to the American people," said Gephardt.Schenk's campaign chairman Richard Keating told BioWorld that thecongresswoman told Gephardt she wouldn't even discuss supportinghis bill until "all price controls" were removed. "She put the issueabove her other concerns about employer mandates and women'shealth," he said. "For a member to put herself on the line like that for avery young industry is unusual."In that context, the financial response from the industry strikes some aslackluster. Keating concedes that "the money is not overwhelming,"but maintains that Schenk's belief in the biotechnology industrytranscends monetary considerations. ("Biotechnology is not a specialinterest to Lynn, it's a national interest.") Nevertheless, he anticipatesgreater support in the future."I don't think the level of support coming from the biomedical industryhas yet been reflected in her financial statements but by the end of thecampaign I think it will be," Keating told BioWorld. "You will see asignificant increase from the industry very soon."According to Keating, campaign contribution records for July (not yetavailable) will record a fund-raiser held in San Diego and attended byVice President Al Gore, as well as numerous biotechnology companyexecutives. Gensia plans to host another fund-raiser for Schenk at theend of August and Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), chairman of theHouse Energy and Commerce Committee, will be there."The biomedical industry as a whole has realized that they've got to bemuch more active, they've got to participate in the political process,"said Keating. "Unfortunately or fortunately, as the case may be, thatmeans contributing to individuals and causes that relate to thebiomedical industry."Schenk Accepts PAC MoneyKeating is quick to note that while Schenk "is at the forefront" ofcampaign reform _ which will result in a ban on PAC contributions _she accepts PAC contributions because "that is how the game is playedright now."Biotechnology Industry Organization president Carl Feldbaum said thathis group does not operate a PAC and is limited in the support it canoffer to candidates. "What we can do and have done is to make surethat the extent of Lynn Schenk's contribution to the industry is widelyknown and appreciated," said Feldbaum.According to Feldbaum, it's typically difficult for House members toraise money outside of their districts and especially out-of-state, whichcould explain the low number of non-California biotechnologycompanies that have contributed to Schenk. Further, he said thatbiotechnology companies are not accustomed to the notion of makingregular political contributions."But I think the political consciousness of the industry is running quitehigh right now and I would not be surprised if biotech advocates likeLynn Schenk would be able to raise considerable funds from anationwide industry network," predicted Feldbaum. "My experience isthat, while contributions do not buy you a candidate or even a politicaloutcome, in many cases they do help you get access, an opportunity totell your story." n
-- Lisa Piercey Washington Editor
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