Thursday, July 13, 2006

Lieberman—Appearances are Deceiving

It’s bad enough that Joe Lieberman, Senator from Connecticut, is as big a supporter of Bush and the Iraq occupation as any good rank and file republican. What is so continually atrocious about this position is that Lieberman ran for Vice President on the ticket against Bush and Cheney in a presidential election. He must have thought at some point that Bush’s policies were not as good as his own would be, yet now it’s hard to see the difference.

Inconsistencies abound, as is indicative of a recent piece by Joe Conason on

Sen. Lieberman has long been known to cultivate the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, which provide jobs in his home state and contributions to his campaign fund. But he has literally been sleeping with one of their Washington representatives ever since his wife, Hadassah, joined Hill & Knowlton last year. The legendary lobbying and PR firm hired her as a “senior counselor” in its “health and pharmaceuticals practice.”

This news marked Hadassah Lieberman’s return to consulting after more than a decade of retirement. “I have had a life-long commitment to helping people gain better health care,” she said in the press release announcing her new job. “I am excited about the opportunity to work with the talented team at Hill & Knowlton to counsel a terrific stable of clients toward that same goal.”

It would be uplifting to imagine that Hill & Knowlton—after spending the past decade as a defendant in tobacco class-action lawsuits because of its role in propaganda disputing the deadly effects of smoking—is now devoted to improving everybody’s health. More likely, the firm remains devoted to improving the profits of its clientele, which has historically included Enron, the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, Saudis, Kuwaitis, American International Group and Boeing.

When a senator’s wife works for one of the capital’s largest lobby shops, appearances tend to matter. In this case, something happened immediately that didn’t look very good.

Mrs. Lieberman signed up with Hill & Knowlton in March 2005. The
firm’s clients included GlaxoSmithKline, the British pharmaceutical giant that manufactures flu vaccines along with many other drugs. In April 2005, Sen. Lieberman introduced a bill that would award an array of new government “incentives” to companies like GSK to produce more vaccines—notably patent extensions on other products, at a cost of billions to governments and consumers.

That legislation provoked irritated comment by his hometown newspaper, the New Haven Register. In an editorial headlined “Lieberman Crafts Drug Company Perk,” the Register noted that his bill was even more generous to the pharmaceutical industry than a similar proposal by the Senate Republican leadership. “The government can offer incentives and guarantees for needed public health measures,” said the editorial. “But it should not write a blank
check, as these bills do, to the pharmaceutical industry that has such a large cost to the public with what may be an uncertain or dubious return.”

No doubt Lieberman would do the bidding of the pharmaceutical lobby whether his wife was on its payroll or not, but this kind of coincidence is best avoided by a man who lectures the world about morality and ethics.

And so it goes…

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments signed Anonymous will not be published.