Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Holding Everyone Accountable

Accountability, what a novel idea! Jeremy Scahill's article in The Nation, An Acorn Amendment for Pfizer, discusses what a few lone Democratic legislators are doing to counter the hypocrisy of the Republican anti-Acorn legislation.
In response to the Defund ACORN Act, which seeks to prohibit federal funds to the community group, Minnesota Democrat Betty McCollum, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, introduced an ACORN act of her own. It is titled the "Against Corporations Organizing to Rip-off the Nation Act of 2009," also referred to simply as the ACORN Act. HR 3679 seeks to "prohibit the Federal Government from awarding contracts, grants, or other agreements to, providing any other Federal funds to, or engaging in activities that promote certain corporations or companies guilty of certain felony convictions."

While some lawmakers are focused on exposing the hypocrisy of targeting ACORN and allowing the fraud- and abuse-plagued war industry to go untouched, McCollum's legislation takes aim at massive healthcare corporations.
"It's time Congress get serious about taxpayer funding of corporate cheats, crooks and criminals," says McCollum. "Last month Congress took action to defund a nonprofit serving poor Americans but failed to act against the corporate crooks that are actually guilty of felonies--including defrauding taxpayers. Why are companies that break the law as a business strategy allowed to receive taxpayer funds? A government contract is a privilege, not a right. If a company commits a felony against the people of the United States, then that privilege must end."
McCollum's bill singles out Pharmacia & Upjohn Company Inc., a subsidiary of Pfizer.
Last month Pfizer agreed to pay a $2.3 billion settlement, which the Justice Department calls "the largest healthcare fraud settlement in the history of the Department of Justice." The settlement stemmed from Pfizer's "illegal promotion of certain pharmaceutical products," where the company marketed dosages that had not been approved by the FDA. The company will also plead guilty to a felony violation of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act for misbranding the anti-inflammatory drug Bextra "with the intent to defraud or mislead."

Pfizer and its vast network of subsidiaries continue to win massive government contracts. Last year Pfizer made more than $40 billion in profits, and in 2007 it had more than $73 million in federal contracts.
McCollum's legislation would limit the amount of lobbying expenditures by "corporate felons" to $1 million a calendar year. In 2009 Pfizer has already spent $11,720,000 on lobbying.

ACORN does not have high-powered lobbyists, and its 400,000 member families do not give major campaign contributions. If they did, the Defund Acorn bill would never have passed Congress. The question for those Democrats who voted to go after this community organization on dubious allegations is a simple one: will you apply that standard to actual corporate felons with real-life rap sheets whose actions have actually harmed ordinary Americans and ripped off taxpayers?

It's about time!

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