Friday, May 29, 2009

Big Pharma ISO Big Democrat: Who Will Pfizer Land?

If you walk by Pfizer’s Manhattan headquarters, you might spot a “Help Wanted” sign in the window. Something like “World’s Largest Pharma Co Seeks Big Name Democrat to Shape Policy in Era of Health Reform. Contact: J.Kindler.”

As we reported here, Pfizer is revamping its government affairs group to align better with the Obama Administration. Its first recruit is transition team member Greg Simon.

That’s a great hire, but the company wants to land a really big name Democrat to head its public policy and government affairs operation. And we mean big. After all, it’s a big job. Really big. Pfizer is already the world’s biggest pharmaceutical company, and it keeps getting bigger. And the policy stakes are big. Health care reform big. And, no matter how the reform debate turns out, the role of government in driving pharmaceutical markets will be bigger too.

There’s just one big problem: every leading Democratic political figure wants to be part of health care reform, so its not like there’s lots of big names available for Pfizer to hire.

Gee, if only they’d done this when the Republicans were in charge they could have had anyone they wanted….

Okay, that would have been suicidal. In fact, we have to give Pfizer credit. Their last “big name” policy hire, Tony Principi, was not only a former cabinet secretary in the Bush White House, he reached retirement age at the end of the Bush Administration. (He turned 65 in April). No need for a messy separation on Inauguration Day!

So far, we’ve heard only two candidates for the Pfizer job: Former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt (picture below) and former White House Press Secretary Michael McCurry.

Those are two strong candidates. Gephardt ran for President twice, (even though he got fewer votes than Pfizer has employees), and he remains a nationally known figure. He certainly seems interested, having teamed up with the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America to promote innovation in health care reform via the Council for American Medical Innovation-though we're not sure the made-in-the-USA theme is the best fit for Pfizer's emerging markets strategy.

McCurry never held elected office, but he has more than three decades of experience as a political operative and would bring great contacts with the Democratic establishment. Like Gephardt, he has engaged with PhRMA, offering advice on dealing with the industry’s chronically poor public image. (Read more here.)

So Pfizer would probably do well to land either of those two.

But, come on, there have to be more possibilities right? Here’s a few to get you thinking—and please give us your suggestions as well.

Tom Daschle would be an obvious choice, so obvious that we assume he must have said no already or he would be on the list of candidates we heard about.

Bill Clinton is the biggest name out there, and if his wife weren’t the Secretary of State, we’d be prepared to make the case that he is exactly the person for Pfizer to go after. But she is, so we won’t.

Jimmy Carter’s a non-starter. Too old. Plus he’d laugh in Pfizer’s face.

Al Gore? Interesting…he’s probably tired of looking at the Nobel Prize and Oscar Statuette display by now.

Actually, when it comes to Tennessee politicians, Harold Ford would be a great choice. The only hitch: everyone thinks he has a bright future ahead of him in politics, so why give that up now?

That’s it! Eliot Spitzer! He’s available, and he’s local.

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