Report: Dietary Supplement Industry Lavishes Cash on Congress, Gets Its Way

Industry's checkbook thwarts plans to increase regulatory oversight

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)hasreleaseda report that it says demonstratesthat the dietary supplement industry spent millions of dollars on well-connected lobbyists and made numerous campaign contributions to successfully thwart increased regulatory oversight of supplements.

"This is yet again another disturbing example of pay-to-play in Washington, D.C.," said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan.  "The old Schoolhouse Rock cartoon about how a bill becomes a law is sadly outdated - in today's world, legislative results are bought and paid for." 

Far and away the largest recipient of campaign contributions from the supplement industry in the 2010 election cycle was Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) who took in $45,780, 59% more than the lawmaker in second place, freshman Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI).   Sen. Hatch wasn't up for reelection, making campaign funds unnecessary. 

Further, the supplement industry paid the lobbying firm of Walker, Martin and Hatch - in which Sen. Hatch's son, Scott Hatch, is a partner -- $125,600 in 2010 alone.  Scott Hatch cannot lobby his father directly, but records indicate Jack Martin, a former aide to Sen. Hatch, lobbied for supplement industry clients.

"Washington is an incestuous place. It can hardly be a coincidence that of all the lobbying firms in town, the supplement industry picked that of Sen. Hatch's son and former aide to lobby on its behalf," said Ms. Sloan. 

86% increase

Lobbying spending by the industry has increased 86% since the 109th Congress.  Further, the political action committees (PACs) linked to the supplement industry have increased donations to federal candidates.  

In addition to Sen. Hatch and Rep. Amash, CREW found major recipients of supplement industry cash during the 2010 election cycle included Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), all of whom either sit on committees considering legislation affecting the industry or have an industry presence in their home states.  The supplement industry is the third-largest industry in Utah, with revenues estimated at up to $4 billion a year.

"Americans' health and safety is endangered by unregulated dietary supplements, but the money the industry is spending serves to dampen congressional concern over the issue," said Ms. Sloan.  "Sadly, this sort of spending is not unusual because it is effective. 

Industries facing potential congressional action routinely spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep regulation at bay.  More often than not, it is corporate interests, not the people's interests that carry the day," she said.

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