PhRMA Gave Big To GOP Rep’s Iffy Foundation, Hired His Son, Kept On Giving

October 28, 2009 2:42 p.m.

Drug industry umbrella group PhRMA, which has given $200,000 to given Rep. Steve Buyer’s Frontier Foundation, in June 2008 hired a director of the foundation as its federal affairs manager, TPMmuckraker has confirmed.

The name of that director? Ryan Buyer, son of the Indiana congressman.In February of this year, while Ryan Buyer was at PhRMA, the drug group gave another $25,000 to Frontier, in honor of Rep. Buyer, according to disclosure documents. It also gave $25,000 in 2008.

Frontier is the foundation which, in six years of existence, hasn’t given out any money for its stated purpose of scholarships for Indiana students, but has done lots to support the congressman’s golf game.

With the revelation that Ryan Buyer was hired by PhRMA in what appears to be a lobbying position, the web of connections between the Indiana congressman, his foundation, and the drug industry grows still thicker.

Reached at PhRMA headquarters in Washington, Ryan Buyer told TPMmuckraker in a brief phone interview that there is a meeting scheduled for tomorrow in Indiana, and “because of those details” — ie, that PhRMA gave heavily to the foundation while employing one of its board members — “I’m probably going to be replaced once we appoint somebody for the position on the board.”

It’s not clear what prompted the meeting, but it may well be press coverage of Frontier, as Ryan Buyer has worked for PhRMA and been on Frontier’s board simultaneously for well over a year now.

Rep. Buyer is a member of the House Energy Subcommittee on Health, which regulates drugs, and matters in which PhRMA has a stake frequently appear before the committee. Buyer himself in 2007 led an effort to kill a ban on advertisements for new drugs and other restrictions.

Rep. Buyer originally denied links to the foundation. After negative press attention, though, Buyer admitted he created and essentially controls Frontier, which shares space with his campaign office.

Ryan Buyer’s LinkedIn profile was taken down recently, but the cached version — which notes he interned at PhrMA in 2007 and was hired in 2008 — can be read here.

PhRMA and Rep. Buyer’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

But in an interview with the Indianapolis Star earlier this month, PhRMA vice president Ken Johnson denied that the group was trying to influence Buyer. “The fact that Congressman Buyer is on the Energy and Commerce Committee doesn’t have anything to do with it,” Johnson said. “But the fact that Congressman Buyer’s district is in the backyard of Eli Lilly has everything to do with that, in the sense that we became aware of (the foundation) through our association with him.”

Buyer’s district is near, but does not include, Indianapolis, where Eli Lilly is based.

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