Posts Tagged ‘lobbyists’

Cronyism in your school lunch

A manufacturer of Greek yogurt “paid $80,000 to Cornerstone Government Affairs to lobby Congress on its behalf, according to federal records.” And now Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York — upstate being a leading center of production for the premium product — has made sure it will be included in federally prescribed school lunches, even in places where local budgets and tastes might not have generated much demand for it. [The Hill; Ira Stoll]

P.S. And plenty of bad GOP behavior on the farm bill too, notes my colleague Mike Tanner.

“Exoneree Faces Ex-Wife in Compensation Lawsuit”

And more litigation besides: “[Steven] Phillips sued a lawyer who billed him more than $1 million for lobbying lawmakers to increase the compensation for exonerees. And another ex-wife is seeking to recover child support that went unpaid during his years in prison. He said that he has spent at least $300,000 on lawyers since he was freed and that despite the compensation [package valued at $6 million], he has struggled to keep his business afloat.” [Texas Tribune] The “last thing a guy freed from 24 years of wrongful imprisonment needs is more time in court.” [Scott Greenfield]

Tales of competition through regulation III: pharma v. compounding pharmacies

Compounding pharmacies, which mix medications to order, are a corner of the drug business that has been much less heavily regulated than mass-manufacturing drug companies. As a result, the compounders began expanding their market presence as against the mass manufacturers, and even get into mass manufacturing methods themselves. The process accelerated in the past few years after tightened FDA control of conventional makers’ production practices (under GMP, or Good Manufacturing Practice, regulation) began to result in widespread production-line suspensions; for hospitals and other users, the availability of compounded alternatives is often the only fallback in the face of shortages.

Unfortunately, poor quality control at some compounders resulted in a series of fiascos culminating in a meningitis outbreak. Now the Washington Post reports that major drug companies are seizing the chance to hobble their competition by pressing for maximally burdensome regulation of compounders, including the addition of regulations unrelated to safety, such as rules aimed at restricting the compounding of formulas that imitate the action of patented products. Hospitals, which sometimes engage in compounding themselves to obtain medication for their patients, say overregulation could worsen the problem of drug shortages. [Kimberly Kindy and Lena Sun, Washington Post] Earlier on drug shortages here, here, etc.

U.N. disabled-rights treaty fails in Senate

By a vote of 61 to 38 with two-thirds needed, the U.S. Senate today failed to ratify the far-reaching Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, criticized in this space before. This morning I published an article in the Daily Caller laying out some of the many bad provisions of this treaty, which the United States is very fortunate to be clear of (at least for the moment; proponents may come back next year and try to ratify it again in a slightly more favorable Senate). After the Senate vote, I added a followup at Cato at Liberty correcting persistent misinformation about the treaty that’s appeared everywhere from a New York Times editorial to a Media Matters blog post (assuming that’s really such a wide range any more).

A footnote: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which really should know better, backed the treaty, which it erroneously asserted “would not require any changes to existing law in order for the U.S. to comply with its provisions.” The Chamber’s most remarkable argument?

…ratification will help to level the playing field for U.S. businesses, which currently compete with foreign counterparts who do not have to adhere to our high standards when it comes to accommodation and accessibility for individuals with disabilities.

So it’s a misery-loves-company argument: if America is going to burden business with costly mandates, we’d better make sure competitors’ countries do so too. Not the Chamber’s finest hour. And as I explain in my Daily Caller piece, the Convention does indeed prescribe mandates that go beyond anything in the current ADA, including employment coverage for the smallest employers (now exempted from the ADA’s equivalent), requirements for “guides, readers and professional sign language interpreters, to facilitate accessibility to buildings and other facilities open to the public,” a new right of disabled persons not to be discriminated against in the provision of life insurance, and much, much more. If U.S. companies find those sorts of new mandates unwelcome, I hope they’ll let the Chamber know.

More: Supercilious Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank doesn’t bother to engage Sen. Mike Lee’s arguments; Washington Post editorial is less supercilious but no more substantive.

Splashback: NYC beverage firms defend themselves against Bloomberg

For now, at least [Ira Stoll, earlier].

Related: “Soda Noir,” Owen Smith’s funny cover illustration for the June 18 New Yorker. And George Will reveals in his column that as part of its stimulus program the federal government spent millions of dollars on campaigns at the local and state level to crack down on sweetened drinks, a policy of dubious legality given that existing law “prohibits the use of federal funds ‘to influence in any manner … an official of any government, to favor, adopt, or oppose, by vote or otherwise, any legislation, law, ratification, policy, or appropriation.'” [earlier here, here]

“Sock Puppets: How the Government lobbies itself and why”

Christopher Snowdon for the U.K.’s Institute for Economic Affairs, in an analysis [PDF] of the government’s penchant for funding private advocacy:

This paper argues that there is a deeper problem if government funds and/or creates pressure groups with the intention of creating a ‘sock puppet’ version of civil society which creates the illusion of grassroots support for new legislation. These state-funded activists engage in direct lobbying (of politicians) and indirect lobbying (of the public) using taxpayers’ money, thereby blurring the distinction between public and private action.

• State-funded charities and NGOs usually campaign for causes which do not enjoy widespread support amongst the general public (e.g. foreign aid, temperance, identity politics). They typically lobby for bigger government, higher taxes, greater regulation and the creation of new agencies to oversee and enforce new laws. In many cases, they call for increased funding for themselves and their associated departments. In public choice terms, they are ‘concentrated interests’ compelling the taxpayer to meet the costs that come from their policies being implemented, as well as the costs of the lobbying itself.

Snowdon’s analysis could be carried over to the equivalent institutional arrangements in the U.S. with relatively little change.

Meanwhile, hmm: Amtrak will give you a fare discount if you join a group that supports Amtrak subsidies [Jonathan Adler]