A series of television commercials praising Sen. Jon Kyl and Rep. J.D. Hayworth illustrate the reach of special interest groups in Washington, the lawmakers’ political opponents said Monday.
Commercials that were broadcast in Arizona are part of a nationwide series of TV spots that laud Congressmen who supported Medicare Part D program, which covers prescription drugs.
The Associated Press reported Friday that while the U.S. Chamber of Commerce claimed credit for the ads, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America funded at least part of the campaign.
Senate candidate Jim Pederson and House candidate Harry Mitchell on Monday joined other Democrats who said the disclosure exposed a Republican-engineered windfall for drug companies.
“This is a perfect example of the domination of special interests in Washington that we have today,” Pederson said during a conference call with reporters.
“Here we have a U.S. senator, who has received over $250,000 from the pharmaceutical industry, being rewarded by that industry.”
Spokesmen for Kyl and Hayworth denied any relationships between campaign donations from pharmaceutical interests, the TV ads and the Republican lawmakers’ votes on pharmaceutical legislation.
Hayworth’s spokesman went further and said Mitchell’s claims are part of a staple of “lies” and “distortions” about Hayworth.
Under the voluntary drug program, Medicare beneficiaries purchase prescription drug coverage from competing plans offered by private insurance companies. Monthly premiums cover part of the cost, while the federal government covers the majority.
The program does not serve the needs of many Medicare users, Pederson said, because of a provision that shifts the costs of medication to consumers after the government pays for the first $2,200 worth of drugs annually. Consumers then pay for the next $2,200 worth. The government resumes payments thereafter.
Kyl’s and Hayworth’s spokesmen countered that the program has saved seniors billions of dollars on prescription drugs. Kyl spokesman Andy Chasin said, “Seniors are considerably better off because before that went into effect, they didn’t have access to prescription drugs and now they have a full drug plan.”
Kyl also supported measures that opposed importing low-cost drugs from Canada and Mexico, and prohibited the government from negotiating lower-cost medications for Medicare, Pederson said.
“Senator Kyl is being rewarded for that by the campaign contributions, by the television advertising,” said Pederson, whose personal contributions of nearly $8.3 million to his own campaign rank him as the No. 1 self-funded candidate nationwide so far this year.
It’s troubling that pharmaceutical interests tried to hide their connections to the ads through the U.S. Chamber, Mitchell said. “We’re talking about one of the most important issues in this campaign — and that’s how business is done in Washington,” he said.
Hayworth and former Tempe Mayor Mitchell are running in the 5th Congressional District, which includes Scottsdale, Tempe, Ahwatukee Foothills, Fountain Hills and surrounding areas.
Kyl and former Arizona Democratic Party chairman Pederson are running statewide.