Not-So-Happy Holidays: HIV/AIDS Activists Picket Dem Congressman Over Pre-holiday Donor "Gifts"

HIV/AIDS Advocates from AIDS Healthcare Foundation protest in front of Congressman Scott Peters office on Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017 in San Diego, against Peters co-authoring legislation negatively impacting the 340B discounted drug program. (Sandy Huffaker/AP Images for AIDS Healthcare Foundation)

Back home in the San Diego district he narrowly won in 2014, Democratic Rep. Scott Peters got a nasty, holiday season surprise yesterday.

Twenty-five or so HIV/AIDS and drug pricing advocates picketed Peters’ district office over his support for limiting a drug discount program that defenders say comes at zero cost to taxpayers but provides vital, life-saving treatment to HIV/AIDS patients.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

According to the AIDS Health Care Foundation (AHF), Peters’ move comes after receiving over $100,000 in donations from the pharmaceutical sector, which wants the drug discount program in question curtailed.

The group further alleges that Peters failed to put out a press release, blog post or other public communication concerning his support for the bill in question. AHF says that is an indication that the bill is a political liability for Peters.

“Normally, when members of Congress introduce bills, they trumpet the accomplishment in order to grab headlines and demonstrate to the public and their constituents that they are getting things done. Congressman Peters’ webpage features a lot of that,” said Tom Myers, General Counsel and Chief of Public Affairs for AHF in a release issued prior to the protest. “However, there is nothing anywhere on his website for this bill, which suggests he is not proud of it. He likely knows it is bad policy and will not be popular, and that people will recognize that he is doing the bidding of pharma.”

While Peters won his 2016 race with 56 percent of the vote, perhaps thanks to Hillary Clinton’s coattails in California, his 2014 and 2012 races were much closer. In 2012, his Republican opponent, then-Rep. Brian Bilbray, refused to concede for many days following the election. In 2014, it took several days following the election for Peters to be declared the winner.


With the Democratic base and many Trump voters harboring much vitriol against the pharmaceutical industry, and Peters in a more precarious position than most incumbent Democrats heading into 2018, AHF and its allies clearly smell blood in the water and want to make Peters feel some pain for co-sponsoring Big Pharma-backed legislation together with Indiana Rep. Larry Bucshon (R).

Bucshon too has received extensive donations from the pharmaceutical sector–$36,000 already for the 2018 cycle, making Big Pharma his second-biggest source of campaign dollars. In 2016, Big Pharma was also his second-biggest source of campaign funds, donating almost $115,000 to his re-election campaign.

Bucshon, a heart surgeon, deviates from what has traditionally been strong support for the drug discount program in question, 340B, from physician-legislators: Notably, former Rep. Phil Gingrey, an obstetrician, and former Health and Human Services Secretary and Rep. Tom Price, also a surgeon, have been regarded as strong supporters of the program.


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