Thursday, September 10, 2009

Jim Greenwood: The Movie

The Biotechnology Industry's Organization's policy briefing went very smoothly on Sept. 9 except for one question. BIO was "pleased" with how the follow-on biologics debate was turning out, and didn't even appear upset about a potential $2.3 billion annual excise tax that might be imposed as part of healthcare reform. But the association was flummoxed when asked about the Supreme Court case on campaign finance law that the Justices were rehearing the same day. Centered on a conservative advocacy group's ability to distribute the documentary "Hillary: The Movie," the case could have broad implications for how businesses can spend money to influence elections.

Did BIO have a position on how corporations should be treated in this First Amendment context? "I'll tell you as soon as I'm advised by counsel," BIO President Jim Greenwood said. He tilted his head away from the microphone and towards General Counsel Tom DiLenge, who had hopped up from his seat and was now crouching behind Greenwood's chair. After the pair whispered in the classic consolatory pose, BIO's new chairman, Stephan Sherwin, said, "I just felt like I was on C-SPAN."

"I'm told we don't have a position on this issue, and we don't," Greenwood said. "We have a political action committee and use it the way that political action committees are used, but we have not seen a need to take a position on that issue." Sherwin, the CEO of Cell Genesys, also demurred on the question.

"The best thing that corporate executives can do is contribute to the BIO PAC," Greenwood quickly added, demonstrating the fund-raising acumen that helped him serve six terms in Congress.

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