February 16, 2009
As I see it
The Obama administration's flurry of “change” announcements included apparent backsliding on his spectacularly successful election campaign's “no lobbyists in my administration” pledge.
Among over a dozen ex-lobbyists admitted or pending admission into the new administration were longtime Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids executive director William V. Corr, former chief counsel and policy director for Health and Human Services secretary-designate Tom Daschle.
In his eight years of pushing a bill in Congress to have the FDA regulate tobacco, public records show, Corr spent at least $1.7 million lobbying the HHS and the FDA, until as recently as Q3 of last year.
The president's “change” orders ban lobbyists from serving in the agencies they once lobbied for two years. That is, unless he issues a waiver—which in my mind severely undercuts the value of his election promise. Of course, the truly sanguine observer could counter that everyone knows Washington couldn't function without lobbyists, and Corr's was a “good” kind of lobbying.
As contaminated goods flood American homes, health product marketers routinely flaunt the FDA's toothless off-label claims prohibitions, knowing their goals will be accomplished before the agency catches up and administers sanctions that can be easily shrugged off as a cost of doing business.
With Corr as No. 2 in the FDA's parent department, and consequently his goal of bringing tobacco to the FDA seemingly a done deal, meaningful recovery of its original mission will be a faint prospect indeed, and hardly the kind of “change” most voters hoped for last November.
Dickinson is editor of Dickinson's FDA Webview (fdaweb.com)