'Blue Dog' Harman tries in vain to distance herself from 'Big Pharma,' military-industrial complex...
By Ernest A. Canning on 5/31/2010, 5:25pm PT  

Guest blogged by Ernest A. Canning

No doubt, the last person eight-term "Blue Dog" Democrat Rep. Jane Harman (CA-36) expected to see when she sat down for a Progressive Caucus panel discussion on April 20 at the California Democratic Convention was the progressive Democratic challenger for her U.S. House seat, Marcy Winograd. In fact, Winograd wasn't even in the room when Harman began to speak.

Winograd explained:

I spoke, then left, then got a cell phone call: "Get back here. Jane Harman just arrived." I ran back downstairs, returned to the crowded room, and quietly sat down, unbeknownst to Jane, just three bodies down from her on the panel. I waited for her to finish her thought, then jumped in.

Winograd seized the moment to engage in a debate of sorts (video below), confronting the wealthy eight-term Congresswoman on a range of issues, including Harman's committee vote to significantly extend Big Pharma's patent protection over biomedical drugs. Harman's response was remarkably deceptive; yet, perhaps because this was not a pre-scheduled "debate," Winograd failed to seize a rare face-to-face moment to directly confront Harman's conflicts-of-interest and prevarication...

There are a number of aspects of this confrontation worthy of note--especially Harman's derision of the Progressive Democrats of America's core value of "Health Care Not Warfare" in response to Winograd's opening remark that while she agrees "fiscal responsibility is really important," Winograd does not see the expenditure of "nearly a trillion dollars on perpetual war and occupation" as "fiscally responsible." Harman played the fear card as she derisively said that "slogans don't solve anything."

Now, perhaps some might think it uncouth, but that seemed like an ideal time to point out, as we did previously, that "Harman, whose committee assignments include Homeland Security and a subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism, invested $6,260,000 in military contracts."

Next, Winograd challenged Harman's committee vote in favor of the "Eshoo amendment," which we also previously explained:

Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) successfully inserted an amendment to the House health care "reform" bill which gives "developers of innovative biomedical drugs 12 years of statutory protection from generic competition, significantly extending their patent rights." According to Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times, the Eshoo amendment would provide "a big payoff to biotech firms and their venture backers by hindering the entry of a new class of generic drugs into the market."

The Eshoo amendment succeeded after Harman joined with Eshoo in Committee to kill an amendment offered by Henry Waxman (D-CA) which would have provided "a 5-year fast-track of generic biologics....A May 15, 2009 financial disclosure statement Harman filed with the House of Representatives reveals Harman's 2008 investment portfolio included stock in at least three biologic manufacturers: Pfizer, Abbot Labs, and Johnson & Johnson."

Harman first sought to evade Winograd's direct challenge by stating that she would have liked to vote for a better health care bill and then saying that Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) had inserted it into the bill. This produced a remarkable colloquy between Harman and fellow panelist Jane Hamsher:

Hamsher: We’re talking about a committee vote that you took.

Harman: Yes I did. Ted Kennedy was the author of that amendment. Ted Kennedy felt, and Ann Eshoo felt and I felt that biologics are very different from other forms of medicine. They are not identical, and I wanted to be sure that the products we use to all the things that Marcy Winograd just said…are safe and effective. And that is why I made that vote.

Hamsher: So making them not available for 12 years in generic form makes them safer?

Harman: The argument is that makes them safer because it makes sure that they work. Yes.

Hamsher: Nobody thought that. Even the pharmaceutical companies weren’t saying that.

Harman: I don’t talk to Big Pharma. They’re not supporters of mine."

Harman's right! She doesn't need to "talk to Big Pharma." As one of the wealthiest members of Congress, with an investment portfolio that includes stock in three biologic manufactures, Harman is an integral part of Big Pharma just as she is an integral part of the military industrial complex. Marcy Winograd, who was well aware of these ties, had missed a golden face-to-face opportunity to call Harman out not only for her conflict-of-interest but for her shameless dissembling.

To her credit, however, Winograd subsequently issued a press release in which she challenged Harman "to immediately divest of up to $8.3 million worth of investments in military contracting firms and return over $60,000 in campaign contributions from military contractors."

The Democratic primary in California takes place on June 8th.

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Marcy Winograd's and Jane Harmon's unintended debate during panel session of CA Progressive Caucus ...



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Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968).