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How GOP Senate Candidate Tommy Thompson Cashed in Big on His Lobbyist Connections

Progressive Tammy Baldwin's challenger owes part of his sudden multi-million wealth to his time with the Washington lobbying firm, Akin Gump.

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Akorn’s anti-radiation drugs were granted fast-track approvals by the FDA in 2004, while Thompson still oversaw the agency. Thomson still listed Akorn as a consulting client on his 2011 financial disclosure form, but no compensation is disclosed.

PharmAthene—This is the Akin client that’s drawn the most attention in prior Thompson coverage.  His appearance a day after the tenth anniversary of 9/11 on ABC News when he twice brought PharmAthene up, without any prodding from the two interviewers, provoked outrage. PharmAthene is “doing an excellent job” in developing a second-generation anthrax vaccine, Thompson volunteered, “and I think our country needs to get behind them.” He never revealed that the company was one of his Akin consulting clients and one of Wiley’s lobbying clients. In fact it has paid over a million dollars in lobbying fees to Akin, with Thompson’s consulting fee undisclosed (his disclosure form indicates he held stock in it in 2011).

An Akin spokeswoman  promised the Washington Business Journal last fall that if Thompson referred to PharmAthene publicly again, he would “also mention that they are a client.” In fact, a PharmAthene press release in 2009 had already quoted Thompson saying much the same thing with no reference to his Akin representation. Even as Thompson concealed his representation of PharmAthene during the September 12, 2011 interview, while using his 9/11 credentials to promote it, he also virtually announced his senate candidacy. The company’s PAC and its chief executive have given $10,300 to his campaigns.

PharmAthene won two contracts totaling $128 million to develop its vaccine from an HHS unit in 2002 and 2003, when Thompson was still secretary, eventually topping over $200 million in developmental funding, designed merely to make it make it eligible for a contract to actually produce the vaccine. In August, however,  news reports indicated that the FDA put “a clinical hold” on PharmAthene’s production “without a reason.”

Gilead Science—The company’s PAC and executives have contributed $27,500 to the senate campaign, and have paid Akin $1.4 million in lobbying fees since 2008. Thompson listed it as a consulting client for 2011 in his senate disclosure, but the fees he received in addition to Akin’s lobbying fees aren’t disclosed. Thompson announced in 2004 that he would grant  expedited approval of Gilead’s HIV drugs if they were combined with two other medications manufactured by other companies. In 2009, the HHS Inspector General subpoenaed Gilead’s records, but no further action has since been taken.  

Research assistance by Jacob Anderson, Andrea Hilbert, Max Jaeger, and Catherine Thompson

Wayne Barrett is a Nation Institute Fellow who has been covering the presidential election for the Daily Beast and Mother Jones. He was a senor editor and investigative reporter at the Village Voice for nearly four decades, and has written several books, including Rudy! An Investigative Biography of Rudy Giuliani.

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