Get the latest on influence straight to your inbox! Subscribe to our newsletter here.
This Week in Tarbell
After years of shying away from confrontation with pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers, Congress could be gearing up to fight for lower drug prices. Tarbell columnist Trudy Lieberman writes in her latest column about the signs she’s seeing.
Notable Investigations and Solutions
This week, a new example emerged of biased sources influencing health research. A new study came out this month, negating previously held beliefs that red meat has negative health effects. But the author had recently been commissioned for other research from an industry trade group with support from major agribusiness companies.
And if you’re looking for more information, check out Tarbell’s series of stories on industry-funded studies.
Sutter Health hospital systems is on trial starting today for monopolizing California health care and trapping patients into a costly system. The New York Times has a strong summary, and Tarbell will be watching the repercussions for patients.
Sludge noticed the innocuous advertisements from the Coalition Against Socialized Medicine on Politico Playbook, and they unraveled a web of massive donors working to ensure high drug prices won’t drop.
Sen. Bernie Sanders aired a new proposal to stop corporations from funding party conventions, as part of his bid for the 2020 presidency. But lobbyists have quickly shut down this effort.
The federal government has arrested two Soviet-born US citizens who were major donors to a Trump fundraising committee and associates of Rudy Giuliani for their attempts to influence US politics on Ukraine’s behalf.
And to continue the conversation on how powerful US political influencers made lucrative deals with Ukraine, consider: Giuliani’s long-spanning business ties to the country, and an analysis of Hunter Biden’s “perfectly legal” but morally corrupt dealings.
An allegedly independent organization called Pennsylvanians Against Gerrymandering emerged this year to advocate for a citizen’s commission for drawing district lines. But organization received a steep donation from Kathryn Murdoch – the daughter of the Fox News mogul – and forged alliances with major lobbyists who have been involved in gerrymandering for years. The Intercept continues its series on how powerful individuals force their desired election results in America.
The Houston Rockets basketball team is hugely popular in China, but they ran into some financial flack from abroad when their manager tweeted in support of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. In a wilder turn, Disney-owned ESPN was unable to bring up criticism of the country and its human rights and transparency issues while covering of this story, according to a leaked memo that alludes to the news outlet’s financial reliance on China. A strange anecdote of corporate collusion with foreign governments, for all you basketball fans and China watchdogs (personally, I’m more of the latter).
A new lobbying group has emerged to promote fracking and attack any iteration of the Green New Deal, joining a long line of influencers trying to fight awareness and action on climate change. But The Empowerment Alliance has teeth, granted the org through its connections to elite Republicans.
The field of synthetic biology – a “hack”, if you will, between traditional biological sciences and back-end technology – is now exploring an entirely new field: lobbying Washington to ensure their studies proceed with minimal impediments from the government. A fascinating story from Stat for health care wonks, but it’s behind a paywall.
In case you’re looking for a new read, a Cornell University professor reviews Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power, a book that explores the network of businesses and conservative think tanks built by the wealthy brothers, and the influence they carved into American government.
Spotlight on Local Journalism
A strange battle is playing out in Ohio: the state passed a new fee onto consumers to bail out struggling coal and nuclear plants. Now the fossil fuel industry tag-teamed with renewable energy companies to eke out further funding from the state, and they’ve tapped into a sympathetic dark money group with deep reserves.
A Georgia lobbying firm swooped up a former state senator and placed him with the Atlanta Braves to combat anti-gambling laws. Conveniently for the Braves, the senator’s wife is currently studying whether to curtail sports bets.
The EPA just passed off responsibility for violations at oil, gas, power and waste plants over to North Dakota’s environmental department. The ND authorities have in turn mandated companies to self-report their own violations, and you know how much companies are willing to own up to their mistakes…
Another health care merger hits Massachusetts, joining the second and third largest health insurers in the state. A health policy and management professor from Northeastern University unpacks how the merger of Harvard Pilgrim and Tufts health plans will be a boon for the company, and a bust for those on the plans.
The York Dispatch released a convenient table charting lobbying expenditures throughout Pennsylvania. If you live in the state, you can see some enticing stories in those numbers: the sad, slow decline of lobbying for Freedom of Information, and the wild jump in firearm lobbying, from $584k in 2017 to $1.2 million in 2018.