Dialing for Drug Dollars - Al Gore pledges money for AIDS drugs in South Africa..
by Timothy Maier
Dogged by AIDS protesters on the campaign trail, Al Gore promised $100 million in funds to combat AIDS, but then his ties to the drug industry led some to cry hypocrisy.
With his presidential campaign floundering, Vice President Al Gore turned to desperate measures this week by promising $100 million in additional funding to combat AIDS, especially in South Africa, and hailing a recent National Institutes of Health, or NIH, study that could prevent infants from contracting AIDS through their infected mothers and save millions of dollars.
Gore's motive? Simple enough, say critics: He has been dogged by AIDS protesters angered about his refusal to support the South African government's pursuit of generic drugs to treat the infectious disease and Gore wants those hecklers off his campaign trail.
Though some critics praise the latest news, which raises total funding to $150 million to South Africa, it may not undo the damage. Protesters from groups such as ACT UP continue to harass Gore at political rallies with a chorus of boos because administration trade policies he supports have made it difficult for patients to get cut-rate AIDS drugs in Africa.
Julie Davids, a member of ACT UP in Philadelphia, blames Gore for playing a pivotal role in the threat of trade sanctions against South Africa in retaliation for its 1997 law permitting the generic manufacture of AIDS drugs -- despite the fact that the law is allowed by trade agreements that the United States has signed. At the same time she attacks the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, for its alleged greed.
Silent Al, Oxy's Pal
by Kendall CLARK
Monday, 09 October 2000
The U'wa people of Colombia want, more than anything else, to be left alone to live their lives in much the same way as their ancestors have for generations. Standing between the U'wa and the existence they insist upon are the oil-mad ambitions of Occidental Petroleum, its proxies in Colombia, including the government and the military, and large, influential American shareholders of Occidental stock, including Al Gore.
Gore, despite his worthless protestations of environmental commitment, has so far refused either to divest himself of Occidental holdings or to speak publicly against what Occidental is doing to the U'wa. Activists around the country have shadowed Gore for months, demanding that he publicly distance himself from Occidental. On Friday, local Dallas activists, including anarchists, Greens, and others, protested Gore's tacit acceptance of Occidental's treatment of the U'wa, while trying to draw local attention to the plight of the U'wa.
Protesters were treated with contempt and hostility by local Democratic Party worker-bees, including one who, having been informed of the U'wa's desperate position -- viz., their threat to commit mass suicide if dispossessed of their land and way of life, and the Colombian military's increased aggression toward them -- responded by saying that "we all die sooner or later; sounds like the U'wa will be dying sooner rather than later."
At least this low-level flunky has the guts to say something about the U'wa (even if it's evil); Gore hasn't even gotten that far yet. Gore's handlers have insisted that since he isn't the only trustee of between $500,000 and $1,000,000 of Oxy stock, (his mother is a trustee too), he bears no responsibility of divestiture, public pressure and humiliation, or, at least, a cessation of lobbying activities on behalf of Oxy with the Colombian government.
This evasion is hardly coherent. If he cannot divest, and it's hard to believe Gore has no influence with his own mother about such an important issue, he could criticize Oxy publicly until they relent. He could also refrain from taking contributions from Oxy. He could simply do nothing at all, and that would be more praiseworthy than his current support of Oxy.
But Al Gore has a long, cozy relationship with Occidental -- it's a family thing: his father was owned by Armand Hammer, founder of Occidental; and Al and Tipper's financial security, according to Alexander Cockburn's Al Gore: A User's Manual, is the result of a sweetheart mineral rights deal with Occidental.
To suggest that, since Gore doesn't alone (or directly) manage the Oxy trust, there's some amelioration of his moral responsibility is morally illiterate. Are there any morally relevant facts which Gore lacks? Is there any doubt that Gore's tacit support for Oxy is blameworthy given the the relevant facts?
He knows the trust contains Occidental stock, and he knows the effect Occidental's Colombian misadventures will likely have on the U'wa. He also knows that if Oxy's U'wa desolation is profitable, he stands to benefit financially. He knows that Oxy contributes heavily to the Democratic and to his campaign coffers. One thing he doesn't know is the exact capital gains tax he'll one day owe from the rape, pillage, and plunder of the U'wa. It can only be greed that prevents Gore from making a big show of divesting his Oxy stock; after all, it would mean huge political capital against Bush.
His unwillingness to do the moral minimum, to refrain from actively supporting Oxy, can only mean that Gore's greed, moral ineptitude, or both exceed his grasping ambition -- an unhappy and foreboding fact about the man who would be President.
GORE'S PATENTED MONEY MOVES Why is Vice President Al Gore leading the Clinton Administration's efforts to prevent Third World countries like South Africa from producing or buying affordable generic versions of critically needed AIDS drugs? The answer: there's a presidential campaign on, and literally millions of dollars in hard and soft money contributions to be had by serving the interests of the U.S. and European pharmaceutical industry. Right now, the epicenter of the AIDS crisis is in the Third World, where most people cannot afford the sophisticated drugs that have proven helpful in slowing the progress of the disease. South African officials estimate, for example, that 20 percent of pregnant women there are HIV-positive, and a total of 3.2 million out of 40 million people are infected. In response, the country passed a law in 1997 allowing the licensing of domestic production of generic versions of AIDS drugs as well as the purchasing of cheaper versions on the world market. Many other countries are considering similar steps. But the pharmaceutical industry is worried that if Third World countries go ahead with these plans, their ability to charge vastly inflated prices back home in the U.S. may be undercut. While AZT, for example, can be purchased on the world market for 42 cents for 300 mg, it retails in the U.S. for nearly $6 a pill. In response, the Clinton Administration, taking its lead from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and companies like Bristol-Myers Squibb, Glaxo-Wellcome, and Pfizer, which make the most widely used AIDS drugs, has charged South Africa with violating the World Trade Organization's rules regarding patents and intellectual property. Despite the fact that the WTO explicitly allows members to take such steps in the face of a national emergency or for public non-commercial use, the U.S. has placed South Africa on a "watch" list as a free-trade violator and denied it special tariff breaks on its exports. As co-chair with South African Deputy President Thabo Mbeki of the main U.S.-South Africa trade commission, Vice President Gore has been at the forefront of this push, making the issue of "pharmaceutical patents in particular a central focus of his discussions with Deputy President Mbeki," according to a recent State Department report. At first glance, Gore's assiduous efforts seem counter-intuitive, since campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical lobby have tilted mostly to Republicans, especially since President Clinton's ill-fated effort at health care reform. But Gore, who has boasted of his goal to raise a record-breaking $55 million in 1999 for his presidential campaign, is clearly building on a long-standing foundation and series of relationships. And he has good reason to expect that the flow of pharmaceutical dollars will increase in his direction in the coming months. Before he ascended to the Vice Presidency, from 1983 to 1990 Congressman and Senator Al Gore raised at least $18,650 in PAC contributions from pharmaceuticals, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The Clinton-Gore campaigns of 1992 and 1996 brought in $582,945 from Squibb, Glaxo-Wellcome, Pfizer and the PhRMA, including individual hard and soft money contributions to the Democratic party committees. Big drug companies also gave or lent another $250,000 to pay for Clinton-Gore's 1993 Inauguration. In 1997-98, Gore's "Leadership 98" PAC, the staging ground for his 2000 campaign, raised another $51,000 from pharmaceutical interests, and the four groups cited above gave another $276,850 in soft and hard money to Democratic party committees. The Gore campaign is also well-positioned to reap a bumper crop of pharmaceutical cash. Anthony Podesta, a close friend and top advisor to Gore, is one of the PhRMA's chief lobbyists. His firm was paid $160,000 by PhRMA to lobby on patent issues, among other matters, between January 1997 and June 1998. He was also retained by Genentech, a major biotech firm with an intense interest in protecting its patents, at the tune of $260,000 for the same period. (Genentech supplied $229,225 in soft and hard money contributions to Clinton-Gore and Democratic party committees between 1991 and 1998.) Former congressman Tom Downey, Gore's "First Friend" since their days together on the Hill, is a lobbyist for Merck. Peter Knight, Gore's head fundraiser, made $120,000 lobbying for Schering-Plough, another deep-pocketed drug company, in the first half of 1998. And Gore's chief domestic policy adviser, David Beier, was previously the top in-house lobbyist for Genentech. These people know who to dial for dollars. One last sign that the pharmaceutical lobby is warming to Gore: $11,000 in contributions to Gore 2000 from PhRMA, Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Genentech and Glaxo-Wellcome lobbyists in the first three months of 1999, including a thousand-dollar check from Glaxo-Wellcome's Director of Government Relations on March 31. Most of this money rolled in after consumer and AIDS activists started putting pressure on Gore's office to change his South Africa policy. Instead, at the end of April, he ordered a special full review of South Africa's trade policies, further ratcheting up the pressure on Pretoria to abandon its efforts to bring affordable AIDS drugs to its people. OUCH! is a regular e-mail bulletin on how private money in politics hurts average citizens, published by Public Campaign, a non-partisan, non-profit organization devoted to comprehensive campaign finance reform. Every day, we pay more as consumers and taxpayers for special interest subsidies and boondoggles because of our system of privately financed elections. It's time for a change. Help spread the word! Send copies of this message to your friends and join the growing movement for real campaign finance reform. If you would like to add yourself to the OUCH! listserv, send a one-line e-mail message to firstname.lastname@example.org reading "subscribe ouch". To remove yourself from the list, send a message to the same address reading "unsubscribe ouch". Want more info about Public Campaign? Visit www.publicampaign.org or write to email@example.com. This bulletin may be reposted to newsgroups as long as it is printed in its entirety.
Friday, November 9, 2007
Dialing for Drug Dollars - Al Gore pledges money for AIDS drugs in South Africa..
Posted by ptownpixie at 11:27 AM