Drugmakers Gave Republican While Employees Backed Obama

Photograph by JB Reed/Bloomberg

Eli Lilly & Co. antidepressant Cymbalta.

Political committees controlled by U.S. drugmakers including Johnson & Johnson and Eli Lilly & Co. favored Republican political candidates in the November election even as workers at the companies were writing checks to get President Barack Obama re-elected.

Political action committees controlled by the six biggest U.S. drugmakers — Pfizer Inc., Merck & Co., Eli Lilly, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., Johnson & Johnson and Abbott Laboratories — gave the majority of their political donations to Republican candidates in the 2012 elections. Of the $3.48 million the six companies gave, 54 percent went to Republicans and 46 percent to Democrats, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics analyzed by Bloomberg.

That creates something of a contradiction, since the opposite was true for their employees who gave independently to campaigns. Out of more than 1,000 presidential campaign donations over $200 given by workers on their own, 70 percent went to Obama and 30 percent to Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

Eli Lilly’s PAC, which is funded by its employees, gave 59 percent of its $491,000 in federal donations to Republicans, a higher share than any other drugmaker. Yet its employees, when they gave on their own, gave to Obama 59 percent to 41 percent.

Greg Kueterman, a spokesman for Eli Lilly, said the company doesn’t look at political party when deciding who it will donate to.

“We focus on candidates or elected officials who have a focus on medical innovation,” Kueterman said in a telephone interview.

More Merck employees — 82 percent — gave to Obama than employees at any other company. Bristol-Myers was next, with 77 percent of donations going to Obama.

Lilly, which had the largest share of company PAC donations to Republicans, was followed by J&J, with 57 percent of its $424,000 going to Republicans. J&J employees, meanwhile, give 75 percent of their individual presidential campaign donations to Obama.

Al Wasilewski, a J&J spokesman, said the company’s political giving policy was focused on improving health care and advancing free-market economic principles.

“We wouldn’t speculate on the political giving preferences of our employees,” Wasilewski said in an e-mail. “The JJPAC aims to balance its contributions across both parties.”

It’s not entirely unusual for company PACs to have very different political giving profiles than their employees, said Viveca Novak, a spokeswoman for the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington. An analysis last week by the center found that while Macy’s workers favor Democrats, its PAC gives preference to Republicans three-to-one. Workers at retailers Best Buy and Target leaned Republican, though, as did their company PACs, according to the center.

“The corporation’s PAC usually has a process for deciding who to give money to, and they generally include corporate officers or people who are thought to have the corporation’s interest at heart,” Novak said in a telephone interview.

Drugmakers’ political priorities include tax reform that would let them bring home cash stored overseas, easier approval of new products and avoiding price cuts on products.

“When individuals give, sometimes they’re giving with the corporation’s interest in mind and sometimes they’re not,” Novak said.

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