Facing acute risks to their businesses from Washington policymakers, health companies spent more than $2 million to buy access to the incoming Trump administration via candlelight dinners, black-tie balls and other inauguration events, new filings show.
Drugmaker Pfizer gave $1 million to help finance the inauguration, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission. Amgen, another pharmaceutical company, donated $500,000. Health insurers Anthem, Centene and Aetna all gave six-figure contributions.
They joined a surge of corporate donors from multiple industries to break inauguration-finance records even as then-President-elect Donald Trump promised to “drain the swamp” of Washington influence-peddling.
But the stakes for the health industry were especially high as the new administration prepared to take power.
Two weeks before Pfizer’s donation, Trump told Time magazine: “I’m going to bring down drug prices.” At the same time, one of his top goals was repealing Obamacare — the Affordable Care Act — and its billions in subsidies for insurance companies and hospitals.
Also writing checks for the inauguration were drugmaker Abbott Laboratories, drug wholesaler Caremark, insurer MetLife and Managed Care of North America, a dental benefits manager.
Trump’s inaugural committee raised $107 million, more than twice as much as for any previous presidential investiture. President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration held the previous record of $53 million.
Obama banned corporate donations that year and limited individual donations to $50,000 but accepted corporate grants for his 2013 inauguration.
No health company gave more to Trump’s event than Pfizer, whose profits for Lyrica, Prevnar 13 and other high-priced medicines could come under pressure if the Medicare program for seniors is allowed to negotiate on cost, as Trump has suggested.
Lyrica alleviates nerve and muscle pain. Prevnar 13 is a vaccine against pneumococcal pneumonia.
Along with several other pharma companies, Pfizer is the subject of a Justice Departmentinvestigation over donations to charities that help Medicare patients avoid copayments for expensive drugs.
Pfizer CEO Ian Read is also a vocal advocate of cutting corporate income taxes, which Trump has pledged to do. The Obama administration thwarted Pfizer’s $160 billion deal to move its legal residency to low-tax Ireland to merge with Botox maker Allergen.
Pfizer’s $1 million donation entitled it to four tickets to a “leadership luncheon” with “select Cabinet appointees and House and Senate leadership,” according to a solicitation brochure obtained and posted online by the Center for Public Integrity.
“As it has been the case with previous presidential inaugurations, we made a financial contribution to the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee and a group of our senior leaders participated in various official events,” said Pfizer spokesperson Sharon Castillo. She declined to identify the executives.