Saturday, July 23, 2005

The Legend of Billy Tauzin

Somehow, I missed the story last December of Bill Tauzin.

This guy was a cantankerous Republican congressman from Louisiana who headed the House Commerce Committee until he stepped down last year.

This Committee oversaw the pharmaceutical industry as well as other industries. In fact, the pharmaceutical industry gave over $200,000 to Tauzin's campaign.

So what does a congressman do once he's retired? What could he do for employment?

No problem for Tauzin. He is now CEO of the pharmaceutical lobbying group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). This is the largest lobby group for big pharma.

I certainly didn't hear much about this last December, but it's only through my own ignorance. The press did report it, although not enthusiastically. There must have been a shark attack or sex scandal that was more pressing at the time.

The reason I found out about it today was that Tauzin was quoted in an article in Newsweek magazine on the problems with pharmaceutical drugs like Vioxx, Celebrex, etc. The quote came but the magazine only stated that Tauzin was with the lobby group, no mention of his former position in Congress. I thought I had heard that name before, so I looked it up, and WHAM-O, there he was - former Representative Tauzin.

Tauzin said upon taking the job that his first priority was to "restore credibility to the pharmaceutical industry." Huh? You're going to do that by taking a job with their lobbying group immediately after stepping down from the committee that oversaw them??

I must say that Tauzin had a good excuse for why he joined big PhRMA. He said that he had a battle with intestinal cancer himself and that it was pharmaceutical drugs that gave him his life back. Okay, I can understand that.

But I really remember Tauzin as a staunch defender of big PhRMA while he was Chairman of the Committee. And now he's on the payroll officially?

What kind of person would feel good about that? What kind of news media would not be pouncing all over a story like that, questioning his every move and asking why he would want to destroy his own credibility like that?

That is our news media, fellow Americans. That is why blogging has become so popular and so important. Because the news media like Newsweek magazine cannot report on the industries that they are part of. The magazine issued that I mentioned, except for the single story on Vioxx, was a tribute, a beautiful salute to the drug industry. Packed with ads from drug companies, and favorable stories, it was 90% favorable and only 10% questioning.

They simply can't do the job. They are now in that position and they can't get out. So we bloggers need to help. The point is not to blame Newsweek. They're stuck.

The reporters are not happy about this, I'm sure. They have to write this crap, they don't like it. They know they're destroying their own credibility. They hate that.

The magazines have got to keep the ad revenue moving, or they'll die. And you can't publish stories about your advertisers. And big Pharma is the biggest advertiser. Hell, for every full page ad a pharma company pays for, they have to pay for 2 more pages just to write all the fine print about the drug! Do you know how much it costs to run a full page ad (much less 3!) in Newsweek? Probably about $100,000 for one issue.

So, let's get blogging. If you don't blog yet, please start. We need to hear your take on things. We need you as a "citizen journalist." We need you putting the pieces together that Newsweek is not allowed to do.

Blogging is free. This service that I use,, is run by Google and there is no charge. It's a great service. Hell, you might even make a little money by running Google's AdSense ads on your blog. If you don't like writing or typing, start a Podcast instead. There are lots of good Podcast hosting companies like this one.

The only thing I'm asking you to donate is your time.

Please add your voice to the blogosphere.

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