By Derrick DePledge
The Washington Post reported on Saturday that an aide to U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa told colleagues in June that the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a trade group for the drug industry, wanted to run a campaign to help Hanabusa's Democratic primary challenge to U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz.
Interest groups are not allowed under federal campaign-finance law to coordinate independent expenditures with political candidates.
PhRMA told the Post that it was considering a fundraiser for Hanabusa and denied that the trade group had offered to run a campaign. A Hanabusa spokesman blamed a misinformed staffer.
From the Post:
A senior aide to Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) told his colleagues late last month that the nation’s top drug lobby had agreed to run a campaign supporting the congresswoman’s challenge to Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz and wanted to coordinate it with her strategists.
Such an effort, described in an e-mail obtained by The Washington Post, could run afoul of campaign finance laws, which prohibit candidates and their staff from substantial discussions with interest groups about their independent political activities.
Officials with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and Hanabusa’s campaign denied that the group had offered to run such an effort but acknowledged talks about a possible fundraiser for Hanabusa and about the state of the race in general.
Campaign officials blamed the e-mail on a misinformed staffer.
“He made inaccurate assumptions about the type of help PhRMA could provide the campaign,” campaign spokesman Peter Boylan said.
Matt Bennett, a spokesman for PhRMA, said officials there did not offer to do a campaign on Hanabusa’s behalf. But he said the group had “preliminary” discussions about hosting an industry fundraiser for Hanabusa through its political action committee.
He also said that a PhRMA lobbyist had spoken with Jennifer Sabas, a top Hanabusa campaign adviser, but that they had only talked about the state of the Democratic primary campaign in Hawaii.
“They discussed the race and what’s happening on the ground,” Bennett said.
Boylan echoed that, saying Sabas did not provide PhRMA with any information “that would constitute coordination in violation of the law.”