The American Action Network received $4.5 million from the U.S. pharmaceutical industry's largest interest group in 2019. Now, the group is airing misleading claims about Democrats' plans to make prescription drugs more affordable.
A new ad, attacking Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ) for supporting President Joe Biden's jobs bill and its provisions to lower prescription drug prices, claims to speak for doctors and vaccine creators. In reality, the ad was made by a dark money group funded heavily by the pharmaceutical industry.
The 30-second spot, released Wednesday by the American Action Network, addresses the second-term lawmaker directly and urges him to oppose Biden's $1.75 trillion Build Back Better package.
"Hey Andy, remember us?" a narrator asks over stock images of various serious-faced people. "The commuters, the parents, the doctors, and inventors who work our asses off to make the vaccines we all need to get New Jersey back on track?"
The ad also called the plan a "tax-hiking, inflation-fueling, multi-trillion-dollar socialist spending bill" that "threatens over 70,000 New Jersey jobs that help cure the world."
The last-minute ad urged viewers to call Kim to tell him to oppose the popular Build Back Better package, including its popular provisions to allow the federal government to negotiate some lower prescription drug prices.
The ad was produced by the American Action Network, a tax-exempt Washington, D.C.-based political organization that has spent millions on ads helping to elect Republicans. Its chair and co-founder is former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN). The group does not publicly disclose its donors, but reportedly has close ties with the House Republican leadership.
In 2019, American Action Network received a $4.5 million contribution from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, the largest trade group for the nation's drug industry and a vocal opponent of drug price reforms. It was the largest single donation the group received that year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
American Action Network already has spent millions suggesting that lowering drug prices would amount to a government "takeover" that would kill Americans.
Despite the group's efforts, Kim joined with his fellow Democratic House members to vote for the Build Back Better plan, which passed along party lines on Friday morning.
"By passing the Build Back Better Act, we're one step closer to getting Americans back to work, lowering the cost of prescription drugs including capping drug costs for Americans on Medicare at $2,000 per year, and investing in working families and future generations," Kim said in a press release.
The ad's claim that Build Back Better threatens "71,000 NJ jobs" is attributed to a June report by an industry-backed research group. But that report did not purport to analyze the jobs impact of the Build Back Better package, which economists predict will boost employment nationally over the next decade.
Rather, the report cited in the ad analyzed a different bill entirely: the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act (H.R. 3). While Democrats initially hoped to include that proposal in the Build Back Better package, they agreed earlier this month on a more modest prescription drug reform plan that covers fewer treatments.
Even so, H.R. 3 would not be the pharmaceutical job-killing measure the ad claims it would be. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated the bill would lead to just eight fewer prescription drugs being brought to market over the next decade. Meanwhile, the bill includes tens of billions of dollars allocated for expanded research.
The American public strongly supports letting Medicare negotiate lower drug prices. Even former President Donald Trump ran on the idea in 2016, saying it would "save $300 billion" annually, but abandoned the idea after he took office.
"We don't do it. Why? Because of the drug companies," Trump said at the time.
Still, Republicans and the pharmaceutical industry have attacked the idea and have repeated the same misleading talking points that making prescription drugs more affordable would somehow lead to fewer cures for diseases. A recent study from the RAND Corporation found that prescription drugs cost 256% more in the United States than they do in other countries.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.