Thursday, July 19, 2018

Scott Walker says his talk with accused Russian spy Maria Butina was brief


Scott Walker says his talk with accused Russian spy Maria Butina was brief

Patrick Marley and Trent Tetzlaff, Milwaukee Journal SentinelPublished 10:01 a.m. CT July 18, 2018 | Updated 4:13 p.m. CT July 18, 2018


(Photo: Our American Revival)


APPLETON - Gov. Scott Walker said Wednesday he talked only briefly with a woman now accused of being a Russian spy, saying he had his photo taken with her just as he does with others who say they are supporters.

"As we go to events, we meet people, they introduce themselves, often they ask for a picture," Walker told reporters during a stop in Appleton. "And that's not a meeting. A meeting is where you sit down in a room and have a discussion."

RELATED: Scott Walker has not been contacted by FBI over interactions with Russian, campaign says

LIKE US ON FACEBOOK: Get the latest Journal Sentinel news in your feed

Walker was referring to his interaction with Maria Butina, who was indicted this week for conspiring to interfere with U.S. politics and advance Russian interests.

On Wednesday, a federal magistrate ordered Butina be held without bond after prosecutors argued she was at "extreme" risk of leaving the country. She faces two felony charges.

Walker posed for a photo with her at a National Rifle Association meeting in Tennessee in 2015. In the photo, Walker stood between Butina and Alexander Torshin, who is not named in court filings but is the "Russian official" who gave Butina orders as part of the conspiracy, according to the New York Times


Hot Pockets Satisfies

See more →

At the time of the photo at the NRA event, Walker was preparing to launch his presidential bid. Soon afterward, Butina attended Walker's event announcing his campaign launch. 

Walker said he has not been contacted by authorities and knows of no one from his campaign who has been.  

RELATED: Scott Walker met with woman now charged in Russian plot during his presidential bid

Butina said in online posts in 2015 that Walker said "hello" and "thank you" to her in Russian and that she did not detect any hostility toward Russia from him.

Walker said he did not recall whether he spoke Russian to her but did take one semester of the language in college.

Asked if he remembered talking to her, Walker said, "Well, I do now because it's all over the media. But to me, it's just another person we met."

In a court filing Wednesday, prosecutors alleged Butina was in touch with Russian intelligence operatives and once offered sex to someone in exchange for a position with an unnamed special interest group

An affidavit filed earlier by an FBI agent alleged a "Russian official" — Torshin, according to media reports — requested that Butina write a brief report about a political event she was to attend in 2015.

The next day, Butina wrote a report that "included descriptions of her speaking to a political candidate on the night of the announcement, as well as Butina's previous private meeting with the candidate at the 2015 annual gun rights organization members' meeting."

It is not clear if that portion of the affidavit is referring to Walker.

RELATED: As Sheriff Clarke's profile soars, gifts roll in

Butina, the founder of the gun rights group Right to Bear Arms, frequently posted about guns on social media. She promoted the right to carry weapons in frequent interviews in excellent but heavily accented English. 

Saul Anuzis, a former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, told the Washington Post she was "like a novelty" because running a gun rights group in Russia appeared radical.

Photos of Butina and Torshin with Walker were posted on the website of Our American Revival, a political group set up by Walker leading up to his presidential run. At the time, Walker's team frequently loaded photos onto the group's website of the governor posing with people who attended his events.

"I just ask the logical question. If it was something covert, why would we post that picture on a website?" Walker said to reporters. "It just seems ridiculous to think that would be the case.

"The reason we did is because every day we took hundreds of pictures with people who met us at events and then we put them on a website so that people could take them off that website."

The exchange with Butina and Torshin occurred in a VIP area of the NRA event, according to the Washington Post.

Trent Tetzlaff reported from Appleton and Patrick Marley reported from Madison.

Above is from:

Controversial Bob Walberg returns to Boone County government

Cathy Ward

11 hrs ·

BOONE COUNTY BOARD NEWS - By a 7-4 vote tonight, the county board approved the recommendations of Chair Karl Johnson to appoint former board chair Bob Walberg and former board member Brad Fidder to the Boone County Zoning Board of Appeals. Board members Denny Ellingson, Sherry Giesecke, Marshall Newhouse, Jeff Carlisle, Bernard O'Malley, Carl Larson and Karl voted to approve the appointments. Those opposed were Jessica Muellner, Sherry Branson, Brad Stark and me. Jessica noted it would have been a good time to bring new people to these positions and I noted that of the 5 members of the ZBA, four reside in District 1, (the northeast part of the county) and there is no representation on this board in District 3. Also, although well more than half of the people who live in the county live in and around Belvidere, we have only one person to represent us. Walberg and Fidder replace Brian Van Lar and Mark Rhode who resigned recently. County Board members did not get the names of the proposed appointees until late Wednesday afternoon or evening to suggest any concerns. Your thoughts?

Cathy Ward In my opinion, not only board members, but those we represent should also be informed of who the chair is recommending in time for them to react. Getting names just minutes before the vote is not time enough to react for anyone, citizens or board members. ZBA is an extremely important board. Wind farms, solar farms, progress or change of many kinds are reviewed here.

Jay Fundy When chairman, Bob Walberg invited the dirty train to come through our county which would have destroyed some 6,700 acres of farm land! Today, any solar farm applications has a hard time getting an approval! Seems like clean industry isn't wanted here. What is the future of any growth?

Jay Fundy Would Boone County ever see a company like Ingersoll Machine Tool make application to build here? Probably not. Word is out, the county is anti-growth. So why apply? There is no employment here that's why our young people leave.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

NIU Board Appointment Means Early Goodbye To Springfield For State Rep. Pritchard

NIU Board Appointment Means Early Goodbye To Springfield For State Rep. Pritchard

By Susan Stephens Jun 28, 2018


A state representative from northern Illinois is leaving the legislature six months early.

Credit courtesy Bob Pritchard / Facebook

Bob Pritchard, R-Hinckley, announced last year that he wouldn’t run for re-election, but he planned to continue representing the DeKalb area until his replacement is sworn in in January. That plan changed this week.

"I’ve been appointed to a board by the governor," said Pritchard. "As such, I had to resign from my legislative position. And that is all taking place on July 1."

So what’s Pritchard’s new gig? He'll be the newest member of the Northern Illinois University Board of Trustees. Gov. Bruce Rauner made the announcement Thursday afternoon.

Pritchard wanted to keep the news quiet until the governor's announcement, but a state representative in an adjacent district beat him to the punch Wednesday, releasing a statement saying Pritchard will continue his strong commitment to education on the Northern Illinois University Board of Trustees.

“Bob is a very strong addition to the NIU Board,” Rauner said in a news release. “He has a working knowledge of the challenges that face higher education and he is well equipped to advocate for the university, its students and the public-at-large on issues ranging from affordability to access.”

Pritchard has served on many education committees and task forces during his 15 years in the legislature and is recognized as a strong proponent of NIU, which is located within his district. Pritchard was appointed as the 70th district's state representative in 2003 after the death of Rep. David Wirsing.

There are three men vying for the seat Pritchard is vacating: Democrat Paul Stoddard, Republican Jeff Keicher, and Libertarian John Mathey. The Republican party may appoint someone to fill out the remainder of Pritchard's term. 

Above is from:

Friday, July 6, 2018

Is President Trump already winning the trade war?

CBS News

Anthony Mirhaydari

2 hrs ago

Chinese investors monitoring stock prices on Friday.

Trump starts a trade war, but the path to success remains unclear

After months of threats and gamesmanship, President Trump's tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese industrial imports took effect a minute after midnight Friday. It's the latest in a line of protectionism aimed at the U.S. trade deficit with China, which totaled nearly $600 billion in 2017, and includes tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum as well as items like washing machines and solar panels.

And much more has been threatened. Mr. Trump said on Thursday that another $16 billion worth of tariffs against China are coming in two weeks -- and U.S. total alone could reach $550 billion in the next few months.

The actions appear to be having the intended effect, if at the cost of pushing up inflation (prices for washing machine in the U.S. have spiked 16% in recent months, for example). The U.S. trade imbalance with China in May totaled $43.1 billion, down from the $47.2 billion posted in March; it's the smallest monthly deficit since October 2016 and caps the largest three-month reduction in 10 years.

China responded early Friday with its own tariffs on a $34 billion range of American goods including soybeans and pork. The risk now is that the tit-for-tat that marked the verbal standoff will translate into escalation in action, as each side tries to one-up the other.

There are reports that American imports into China are being slow-walked through customs. Moreover, China's currency has weakened markedly in recent weeks in a possible bid to offset U.S. tariffs -- a strategy Trump frequently called out as "currency manipulation" on the campaign trail.

Much depends on how President Trump and the communists in Beijing play the next round in the trade war game. According to calculations by Goldman Sachs, if the full scope of Trump's proposed protectionism is implemented, it would raise the total amount of goods subject to tariffs to nearly $800 billion. Or about four times the cumulative amount proposed just a few months ago.

China appears more vulnerable, with Societe Generale economists estimating that the Chinese economy could lose 1 percentage point of GDP growth and upwards of four million jobs while the U.S. would suffer a modest 0.2 percentage point drag on GDP growth.

a screenshot of a cell phone© Provided by CBS Interactive Inc.

While U.S markets are taking this in stride, Chinese share prices are down 12 percent over the past month on reports that U.S. export orders have shrunk as customers wait to see what happens with tariffs and thus the cost of sourcing.

According to a report by the AP, Ningbo Top East Technology, which makes soldering irons south of Shanghai, has suffered upwards of a 50 percent drop in U.S.-bound orders, which used to make up roughly a third of its total order book. The problem is that the company is asking customers to split the cost of the tariff hike. But few are willing.

Another wrinkle to the China trade war story is a Reuters report that the European Union flatly rejected a proposal by Beijing to form a strategic alliance to take on the U.S. on trade. This is possibly because Europe knows deep down that China's mercantilism is real -- and that they have been guilty of similar behavior in the past. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who just barely survived a recent internal political spat over immigration, warned Germany's lower house of parliament that trade tensions risk reversing the multi-lateralism that quickly quelled the global financial crisis after the U.S. housing bubble popped.

As the trade rhetoric turns to trade actions, business surveys suggest commerce is already being impacted. JPMorgan's Global Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) data show that new export activity has nearly stalled, returning to a low ebb not seen since the middle of 2016 as China was coming off a destabilizing round of currency volatility.

If this impacts U.S. corporate earnings estimates in coming quarters, investors will have no choice but to pay attention. But for now, hope springs eternal that a de-escalation is coming -- or, if the trade spat worsens but remains contained, that U.S. equities will fare the best.

Put another way: That America has the most to gain from taking a firmer stance on trade terms. Small-cap stocks, which rely less on trade trends than large-cap stocks, in particular are hot lately, with the Russell 2000 up more than 9 percent for the year-to-date with the bulk of the gains coming since the beginning of May.

Anthony Mirhaydari is founder of the Edge , an investment advisory newsletter, and Edge Pro, options newsletter. Previously, he was a markets columnist for MSN Money; a senior research analyst with Markman Capital Insight, a money management firm; and an analyst with Moss Adams focusing on the financial services industry.

Above is from:

Red states will lose the most in trade war with China: Citigroup

  • The U.S. officially implemented tariffs on Chinese imports, to which China immediately retaliated to with levies of its own.
  • This tit-for-tat trade war would mostly impact states that voted “overwhelmingly” in favor of Trump in 2016 as they possess “jobs and output significantly affected by tariffs,” says Dana Peterson, Citi's North America economist.
  • She notes, “80 percent of ‘red’ states produce goods subject to retaliatory tariffs totaling 10 percent or more of GDP, compared to 10 percent of ‘blue’ states.”

Fred Imbert | @foimbert

Published 7 Hours Ago Updated 5 Hours Ago

Four-month-old pigs in a finishing barn are seen at Wessling Farms near Grand Junction, Iowa.

Scott Morgan | Reuters

Four-month-old pigs in a finishing barn are seen at Wessling Farms near Grand Junction, Iowa.

States won by President Donald Trump in the 2016 election stand to lose the most as a trade war between the U.S. and China kicks off, according to Citigroup research.

The U.S. officially implemented tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese imports, including water boilers, airplane tires and X-ray machine components. China responded with its own set of tariffs on U.S. pork and soybeans, among other goods.

This tit-for-tat trade war would mostly impact states that voted “overwhelmingly” in favor of Trump in 2016 — relative to the states won by Hillary Clinton — as they possess “jobs and output significantly affected by tariffs,” Dana Peterson, Citi's North America economist, said in a note Thursday evening.

Peterson pointed out that so-called red states have 3.9 million jobs linked to foreign trade, far more than the 2.5 million in blue states. She added that “80 percent of ‘red’ states produce goods subject to retaliatory tariffs totaling 10 percent or more of GDP, compared to 10 percent of ‘blue’ states.”

The tariffs on U.S. and Chinese goods come after months of posturing by both countries. Back in March, Trump announced tariffs on all steel and aluminum imports into the U.S., to which China — along with other key trade partners — threatened to retaliate.

The back-and-forth on trade rhetoric has kept U.S. equities in a range as investors assess the impact of tariffs on corporate profits and global economic growth. The S&P 500 has traded in a 7.5 percent range since March. Since May, the S&P 500’s range had gotten even tighter as the broad index oscillates in a 5.4 percent band.

We depend on global markets for our high-quality grains: Montana farmer

We depend on global markets for our high-quality grains: Montana farmer   6 Hours Ago | 04:58

“US external trade actions are backfiring, risking a reduction in global trade,” Peterson said. “US tariffs on imported goods are designed to encourage a rebalancing of trade that benefits domestic firms and US exporters. The Trump Administration’s goal of opening closed markets and establishing reciprocal trade abroad has alternatively been met with reciprocal retaliatory tariffs and complaints to the WTO.”

“The dollar value of the US and reciprocal tariffs are nominal, but the tit-for-tat could escalate into a trade war that reduces global, and thereby US trade,” she said.

Trade tensions have also been rising ahead of the U.S. midterm elections in November, when Democrats appear primed to gain seats in the House and possibly a majority.

“Economies exacting retaliatory measures are openly targeting goods produced in ‘red’ states, and sectors the President champions, as well as states represented by key players in Congress, including majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate. Hence, the intensity and duration of the trade disputes may be calibrated by voter sentiment ahead of the midterm elections,” said Peterson.

Above is from:

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Big Pharma “pushing” for Kinzinger

Below is a recent ad from the internet, which proports that Mr. Kinzinger is a Medicare Champion. (It is from:

This “award” appears completely bogus. The article from Health News Review details the awarding “non-profit”’s history and connections with big pharma. The ad is being paid by the non-profit.  Mr. Kinzinger received a similar “award” and a paid mailing from another industry “non-profit”; see:


********************************************************************************************************************************************************************* Story Reviews News Release Review Blog Posts

October 2, 2017

Non-profit Alliance for Patient Access uses journalists and politicians to push Big Pharma’s agenda


Mary Chris Jaklevic is a freelance health care reporter and regular contributor to this blog. She tweets as @mcjaklevic.

In an era of widespread calls for action to tame skyrocketing prescription drug costs, one organization consistently opposes measures to rein them in: the Alliance for Patient Access (AfPA).

Associate members of the Alliance for Patient Access, or its offshoot the Institute for Patient Alliance, are primarily drug or medical device companies.

The AfPA claims it’s trying to ensure patients have access to FDA-approved therapies. However, its track record shows it pushes platforms that help drug companies’ bottom lines. frequently writesabout how patient advocacy groups are co-opted by drug industry funding, but the AfPA is something different, observers say: a front group established solely to do the bidding of industry.

To advance its agenda, the AfPA often uses politicians and the news media, and rarely are its deep pharmaceutical connections called out.

Recently, for example, STAT ran a ghostwritten op-ed piece from an AfPA board member that extolled a $24,000-a-year drug to treat psychosis related to Parkinson’s disease. The op-ed was retracted after discovered and reported that it was ghostwritten.

A track record of opposition to limits on drug costs

National pushback against high drug costs has coincided with an expanded role for the AfPA. At its inception in 2006 the AfPA claimed to represent a few dozen neurologists who treat Parkinson’s patients. Today it purports to have more than 800 physician members with “working groups” in seven issue areas. In an email, an AfPA spokesperson said its membership “is comprised of policy-minded physicians and healthcare providers” who “contribute their time as volunteers as opposed to financial dues.” Corporate contributors have nearly doubled in number since 2015, based on lists found on the group’s website.

Conflicts of interest in healthcareCritics say the AfPA and other industry-funded nonprofits oppose even modest measures to limit spending on expensive drugs with marginal benefits, pushing up costs for everyone and threatening prospects for a viable system in which everyone gets adequate care.

“They’re trying to shore up what is obviously an otherwise losing public opinion climate on drug pricing,” said John Rother, president of the National Coalition on Health Care, which advocates for affordable care. The Coalition is partially funded by insurance companies who would benefit from lower drug costs. Rother runs the Coalition’s Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing.

The AfPA’s general message is that the problem isn’t high drug costs, but rather payers steering patients to drugs not picked by their doctors, through what it calls “non-medical switching.” It calls for “patient-focused” approaches to drug coverage.

David Mitchell, founder and president of Patients for Affordable Drugs, isn’t buying it.

“These groups exist to help sell medication,” Mitchell said. “I don’t love insurance companies. If you’re a patient, they can be a real pain in the ass. But when you’re attacking insurers and government, you’re really attacking the companies and the taxpayers who are trying to grapple with high prices.” (Patients for Affordable Drugs is one of the few patient advocacy organizations that pledges not to accept industry funding; it receives funding from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, which also supports

As for these criticisms, Susan Hepworth, an AfPA spokesperson who responded to’s queries, said “AFPA recognizes that policymakers have a tough job trying to balance the demand for health care with finite resources. However, decisions policymakers reach will be better policy if it is informed by the perspectives of those on the front line of clinical care: physicians and their patients.”

A pharma friendly platform

What does patient-focused advocacy look like, to the AfPA? In recent years, the organization has:

  • run ads pressuring Congress to oppose value-based purchasing for Medicare Part B drugs,
  • issued white papers pushing back against opioid-prescribing restrictions
  • made a video endorsing legislation that would block health plan policies that encourage patients to try the most cost-effective drug therapies first,
  • conducted a policy forum that raised questions about the safety and efficacy of generic versions of biologic drugs,
  • compared coinsurance for high-end cancer drugs to “rationing,”
  • used social media to promote co-pay coupons that reduce patient cost-sharing,
  • and issued news releases that attack insurance payment denials of very expensive, marginally effective cholesterol-lowering medications as “dangerous.”
Who’s running the show?

Brian Kennedy

The Alliance for Patient Access is operated by a public affairs firm, Woodberry Associates LLC, and the two entities share addresses and management, public documents show. They were both created by former Iowa state GOP chairman Brian Kennedy in 2006, just after he lost a congressional primary bid.

Kennedy is both Woodberry’s president and executive director of the AfPA and at least two offshoots, the Global Alliance for Patient Access and the Institute for Patient Access. He’s listed as a “counselor” of a third affiliate, the Coalition for Clinical Trials Awareness.

In 2015, the most recent year for which data is available, Woodberry and its employees took in more than $900,000 from the AfPA and related groups in payment for consulting, rent, and other services.

Who donates to the AfPA?

Most of the non-profit organization’s funding comes from the drug industry, not physicians. A list of “associate members and financial supporters” linked to its web site contains 26 pharmaceutical companies and a biopharmaceutical trade group, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). The AfPA also has received more than half a million dollars from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturing Association (PhRMA), a drug industry trade group, since 2008, according to PhRMA disclosures.

Annual dues for these corporations and trade groups are at two levels of $25,000 and $50,000, said Hepworth, the AfPA spokesperson, who is also a Woodberry employee.

Companies funding the AfPA sell some of the nation’s most expensive drugs. They include:

  • Abbvie (Hepatitis C drug Viekira Pak, $83,319 for a 12-week course),
  • Vertex (cystic fibrosis drug Orkambi, $259,000 per year),
  • Bristol Myers-Squibb, (Hepatitis C drug Daklinza, $63,000 for a 12-week course),
  • and Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals (H.P. Acthar, used for multiple conditions including rheumatic disorders and multiple sclerosis, $205,681 per year).
Board members have received hundreds of thousands in industry money

The group’s six physician board members all have significant financial ties to drugmakers, according to ProPublica’s Dollars for Docs and published research disclosures.

For example, according to the Dollars for Docs database, AfPA board vice president Srinivas Nalamachu, MD, received $811,352 in 2013-2015, nearly all of it related to opioid drugs or drugs that treat side effects from opioids. He is on the AfPA’s working group for pain therapy access. In April 2017, the Kansas City Star identified Nalamachu and his former partner, Steven Simon, MD, as among the top-paid promoters of drugs to treat opioid-related constipation. The Star subsequently reported in July that their clinic was raided by FBI agents in connection with an investigation of Insys Therapeutics, an opioid maker accused of paying kickbacks to physicians who prescribed its drugs. The FBI raid focused on Simon’s patient records and did not involve Nalamachu, according to the Star.

Asked how the group can claim to advocate for patients when it’s funded by drug companies, Hepworth responded in an email: “Physicians, healthcare providers, patients, and manufacturers of medicines all share the same goal: ensuring that patients have access to FDA approved therapies. So it’s not surprising that they support AfPA’s objective. Each brings a unique perspective and AfPA provides a platform for physicians and patients to inform policymaking with their respective perspectives.”

Vested interests don’t always make it into news coverage

Journalists don’t always report the vested interests behind these views.

In Politico’s Prescription Pulse newsletter, covering a positive European study about a biosimilar drug, an article quoted the AfPA’s offshoot, the Global Alliance for Patient Access, saying biosimilars “may disrupt patients’ care and lead to higher costs in the long term.” Politico didn’t disclose that the Alliance is funded by brand-name biologics companies that could lose if biosimilars, which are cheaper generic versions, gain market share.

Similarly, Bloomberg’s Bureau of National Affairs ran a story about legislation to combat the opioid epidemic, in which the AfPA raises concerns about “unintended consequences patients with legitimate medical needs may face because of arbitrary restrictions placed on prescribing.” It didn’t mention that the AfPA takes money from at least five opioid makers: Purdue Pharma, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson, Allergan and Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries.

Rother, of the National Coalition on Health Care, said examples like these amount to a false equivalence in news coverage, treating both sides as if they have equal merit. “I think the role of journalism is to expose who’s actually behind these kinds of what I’d call fake groups. They are front groups that are there only to protect in the interests of manufacturers, not consumers,” he said.

Alliance-sponsored forums involving journalists

The Alliance for Patient Access also has elevated its profile by sponsoring policy forums involving journalists.

STAT biotech reporter Damian Garde moderated the AfPA’s National Policy and Advocacy Summit on Biologics and Biosimilars in April. A tweeted photo from that meeting (below) shows Garde sitting next to Robert Yapundich, MD, whose ghostwritten op-ed later published in STAT failed to disclose more than $300,000 in payments from the drug industry.

In 2015 POLITICO hosted a similarly-themed AfPA-sponsored panel, Biosimilars: Can They Break Through?.

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

Kathleen Arntsen@KathleenArntsen

Stakeholder panel on #drugpricing interesting but where's the #payer? #AfPASummit @CreakyJoints @IFAArthritis

1:44 PM - Apr 12, 2016

Twitter Ads info and privacy

Both events focused on why biosimilars have been stalled by regulatory hurdles in the U.S. The AfPA receives funding from several makers of brand-name biologics including Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Amgen, AbbVie and Sanofi.

Asked about STAT’s participation with the AfPA and other industry partnerships, Executive Editor Rick Berke told Managing Editor Kevin Lomangino: “Every partnership we enter into, we think about the optics and appearances. We’re comfortable with the decisions we’ve made. They may not be up to your standards but they’re up to our standards.”

[Editor’s Note: STAT managing editor Gideon Gil wrote to us after this piece was published, stating: “Rick Berke’s comment to Kevin Lomangino from a month ago is taken out of context. He did not refer to the AfPA as a partnership. He was referring to our actual partnerships, not to the AfPA.” Although STAT does partner with pharmaceutical industry groups to host events, Gil wrote that Damian Garde’s moderation of the AfPA panel was not such a partnership.]

Politico spokeswoman Katie Pudwill said sponsors are allowed to give opening remarks but “don’t participate in or design the conversations so their interests don’t affect the outcome of the debate/discussion.” She added: “We have editorial independence over the conversations that take place once one of our journalists takes the stage.”

Some were quick to criticize these media organizations. “Politico and STAT were had,” Mitchell, of Patients for Affordable Drugs, said. “It wasn’t a legitimate discussion. It was a paid-for pharma promotion of this scare tactic that you mustn’t take a biosimilar because it won’t do the same thing as a branded biological.” See more on our coverage of tactics used in the biologics vs biosimilars tug-of-war.

‘Patient Access Champion’ awards handed out to Congress

The AfPA attempts to harness physician voices to sway public policy, holding briefings and advocacy training for “policy-minded physicians” who want to “challenge restrictive health policies.” It claims to run a forum of about 40 physician-legislators in 23 states. “With respect to health care issues, physicians serving as elected officials are often in a unique position to shape policy,” it says.

The AfPA offers cover for lawmakers who carry out the pharmaceutical industry’s agenda, some observers say. In one striking example, the group accepted $7.8 million in 2014 and 2015 to give Medicare “Patient Access Champion” awards to members of Congress, according to its IRS disclosures for those years. The AfPA annual report shows that 50 awards were presented. The awards appear to be a way to thank cooperative legislators while also pressuring them and others to enact the AfPA’s policy agenda.

AfPA spokeswoman Hepworth would not tell who contributed those millions, citing a “general policy” of not disclosing who contributes to particular projects.

In some cases, framed “Patient Access Champion” certificates were presented in district offices, with representatives from other health and senior citizen advocacy groups invited to attend and pose for photos. Many Congress members boasted of their awards in social media, newsletters, and press releases, citing them as evidence that they protect the rights of senior citizens and stand up for the middle class. Here’s a tweet from the AfPA showing U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-MI, accepting her award:

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

A portion of the money went to buy newspaper ads and mailers that urged senior citizens to contact their representatives to encourage them to “protect” Medicare funding for prescription drugs, found.

Some say those awards and ads shielded lawmakers from criticism for voting against Medicare cost controls, such as an independent rate-setting board and other measures.

A mailer from the Alliance for Patient Access, asking voters to thank Sen John Barrasso, R-WY, for voting on a bill related to Medicare Part B.

“If they are called out for undermining patients’ rights, they can say, ‘No, I received an award for protecting patients’ rights.’ A lot of citizens don’t have time to sort it out,” said Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, a corporate watchdog group.

The AfPA does not have to disclose who funded its bid to influence Congress, or anything else it does, because it’s organized as a not-for-profit under a section of the IRS tax code reserved for “social welfare” organizations, known as 501(c)4. Unlike super PACs, which are independent political committees, nonprofits don’t have to reveal their financial backers. They’ve become the preferred option for groups who want to influence politics without having their identities publicized.

Some advocates want more transparency for nonprofits with 501(c)4 status, which have proliferated since the 2010 Citizens United court decision empowered them to participate in politics. The IRS says politics can’t be their primary function, but that rule is rarely if ever enforced.

For now, said Mitchell, “For consumers, it’s caveat emptor.”

Editor’s note: In a follow-up post, we found a dozen examples of the AfPA using op-eds to push their agenda. See more: ‘Ethical bordellos:’ Op-eds don’t always disclose Big Pharma conflicts of interest

Above is from: