Tauzin Grows a Conscience

Or did he borrow Tom DeLay’s?

Slate’s Mickey Kaus observed on Feb. 3 that Republican Rep. Billy Tauzin’s pending acceptance of an offer to become president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America “stinks so badly I think he just might be shamed into giving up the job.” Chatterbox couldn’t conceive of Tauzin’s being shamed, partly because Tauzin’s from Louisiana; partly because Tauzin switched from being a Democrat to being a Republican mere months after the GOP achieved its first House majority in 40 years; partly because Tauzin last June joined Mary Bono, R-Calif., in singing a rap duet to music industry lobbyist Hilary Rosen at her retirement party that, they joked, constituted their “audition” for her job; and partly because Tauzin parlayed a $1 million-plus offer to replace Jack Valenti as president of the Motion Picture Association of America into a reported $2.5 million offer from PhRMA. The fact that Tauzin, mere weeks before the PhRMA offer became known, had played a central role in getting PhRMA’s highest-priority legislation (the Medicare prescription bill) through Congress shocked Chatterbox. It also shocked Joan Claybrook, president of the Nader-founded nonprofit Public Citizen. It also shocked House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. And, of course, it shocked Kaus. Still, Chatterbox couldn’t conceive that Tauzin or the House leaders who have reportedly pressured Tauzin to cool it would care. But they do.

Tauzin said late last week that he would halt discussions with PhRMA. So far, though, Kaus is only half-right. Tauzin isn’t promising to give up the job; he’s merely saying that he won’t further any discussions about taking it until he retires from the House. That may be soon—he’s already turned over his chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce Committee to Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, and a chronic bleeding ulcer lends Tauzin a good excuse—but House GOP leaders want him to finish out his term so that whoever gets the Republican nomination to replace him enjoys the advantage of running with President Bush at the top of the ticket. (Among those seeking the nomination may be Tauzin’s son.)

Tauzin will leave Congress with more than $1 million in his campaign war chest, which, the New Orleans Times-Picayune notes, can legally be passed on to GOP candidates around the country. Tauzin’s largest source of campaign funds during the last election was from the health-care industry. If Tauzin does assume the presidency of PhRMA, the political action committees for Pfizer, Merck, Johnson & Johnson, and quite a few other drug companies that gave heavily to Tauzin in 2002 will in effect be able to recycle their contributions, since any candidates receiving funds from Tauzin’s old campaign committee will surely know Tauzin’s new place of employment. This efficiency alone makes it worth PhRMA’s while to keep the job open for Tauzin.

Glamorization-of-Lobbyists Archive:
Jan. 26, 2004: “Billy Tauzin, Lobbyist
Nov. 14, 2003: “Valenti To Leave MPAA” (NPR’s Day to Day)
Sept. 15, 2003: “Liars in Love
Sept. 12, 2003: “K Street Blues” (NPR’s Day to Day)
Aug. 26, 2003: “It’s Not Lobbying; It’s HBO
July 11, 2003: “Who Cares of DeLay Bullies Lobbyists?”
July 2, 2003: “Why Congressmen Want To Be Lobbyists, Part 2
June 30, 2003: “Why Congressmen Want To Be Lobbyists