Sally Susman of Pfizer leads the most lethal lobbying effort on drug patents and prices. She’s also a big Obama campaign fundraiser.
For several years, Pfizer has been considered a hardliner among big pharma companies on international negotiations over intellectual property rights and drug pricing. This has not changed despite the company having had three CEOs in the past five years.
Since 2007, Sally Susman has played a key role in shaping Pfizer’s global strategy and influencing the Congress and the Obama White House. She is both a major fundraiser for Obama and other democrats, and the daughter of another legendary democratic fundraiser, the current Ambassador to the UK, Louis Susman. During Susman’s tenure at Pfizer, the company has pushed the Obama White House to pressure developing countries to adopt patent extensions and low standards for granting patents on medical inventions, and grant exclusive rights in test data, while advocating a number of initiatives to weaken domestic cost control measures on patented pharmaceutical drugs. Pfizer has opposed language in a UN resolution that provided assurances that public health safeguards in the TRIPS would apply to non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes, asthma or heart disease. Pfizer is pushing the White House to force changes in the leadership of the Global Fund for AIDS TB and Malaria to favor more big pharma policies on intellectual property rights on AIDS medicines, and to push for anti-consumer and anti-poor person measures in the TransPacific Partnership Agreement. She has been particularly effective in getting the Obama Administration to abandon’s public health safeguards in trade agreements that were earlier adopted by the Bush Administration. Who is she, and why does she use her considerable communication and political skills opposing policies that benefit and protect poor people?
* In the past, Sally Susman has worked for the Senate Finance Committee, and from 1993 to 1995, at the US Department of Commerce, where she worked on international trade issues. Before her 1993 Clinton appointment to work at Commerce, Susman worked for American Express, a company she returned to after leaving the government in 2005.
* Right before joining Pfizer in 2007, Ms. Susman was Executive Vice President of Global Communications at the Estée Lauder Companies. According to her Pfizer Bio, at Estée Lauder, she spent seven years directing the company’s global corporate affairs strategy, and she served as a member of the company’s Executive Committee and as the company spokeswoman. Sally Susman is said to have been the inspiration for the character Caitlin Dowd on Cashmere Mafia, the short-lived ABC series.
* This is how her work at Pfizer is described in her official Pfizer bio:
Sally Susman is Executive Vice President, Policy, External Affairs and Communications for Pfizer, the world’s largest biopharmaceutical company whose diversified health care and consumer products are sold around the world. She is a member of Pfizer’s Executive Leadership Team, chairs Pfizer’s Political Action Committee and is Vice Chair of the Pfizer Foundation, which promotes access to quality health care, nurtures innovation and supports the volunteerism of Pfizer’s 100,000 employees. Ms. Susman directs Pfizer’s global communications and its public affairs activities, including high-level relations with the governments of all nations in which the Company has operations or markets products. Ms. Susman also heads the firm’s corporate responsibility group and plays a key role in shaping the Company’s policy initiatives.
* Sally Susman is known as a major campaign bundler for President Barack Obama.
* Sally Susman is the daughter of Ambassador Louis Susman, known as a “longtime and prolific fundraiser for Democratic Party candidates.” Louis Susman was appointed ambassador to the United Kingdom by Barack Obama in 2009. His Department of State BIO is here.
Some recent stories about Sally Susman:
* Matthew Arnold, Headliner: Pfizer’s Sally Susman, Medical Marketing and Media. July 15, 2011
Pfizer recently stripped out a layer of senior management, and Susman was given responsibility for state-level and global government relations, consolidating public affairs into the broader communications area. She now oversees a 400-person department and reports directly to Read.
* Michael Scherer, Barack Obama. Among Top Obama Fundraisers, Influence Seekers Abound, Time, July 20, 2011
Drug giant Pfizer’s top government relations executive, Sally Susman, has pledged to raise between $200,000 and $500,000 for Obama’s re-election effort. She oversees a government relations operation that spent more than $26 million on lobbyists in 2009 at the height of the health care reform debate and more than $15 million in 2010.
* Eric Lichtblau, Obama Backers Tied to Lobbies Raise Millions, New York Times, October 27, 2011
As both a candidate and as president, Mr. Obama has vowed to curb what he calls the corrupting influence of lobbyists, barring them not only from contributing to his campaign but also from holding jobs in his administration. . .But the prevalence of major Obama fund-raisers who also work in the lobbying arena threatens to undercut the president’s ethics push, raising questions about whether the campaign’s policies square with its on-the-ground practices, some of those same watchdogs say. . . Take Sally Susman. An executive at the drug-maker Pfizer, she has raised more than $500,000 for the president’s re-election and helped organize a $35,800-a-ticket dinner that Mr. Obama attended in Manhattan in June. At the same time, she leads Pfizer’s powerful lobbying shop, and she has visited the White House four times since 2009 — twice on export issues. But under the byzantine rules that govern federal lobbying, Ms. Susman has not registered with the Senate as a lobbyist.
* Devin Dwyer, Obama Hits 100th Fundraiser on $5M New York City Haul, ABC News, March 1, 2012.
President Obama Thursday night will attend his 100th re-election fundraiser during a visit to New York City that’s expected to raise at least $5.1 million for the 2012 campaign. Among the hosts of Obama’s New York events are seven of his top campaign financiers, or bundlers, who have maxed out contributions to the president and Democratic National Committee and amassed hundreds of thousands of dollars from their friends and colleagues who have done the same. They include UBS Americas chairman and Obama golfing partner Robert Wolf; Observatory Group co-founder Jane Hartley; Pfizer executive Sally Susman; Chelsea Piers president Tom Bernstein and Centerview Partners co-founder Blair Effron. Each has bundled more than $500,000 for Obama this election cycle, according to the president’s campaign.
* Devin Dwyer, Mar 14, 2012, Obama’s Top Campaign Bundlers Among State Dinner Guests. ABC News.
More than three dozen of President Obama’s top re-election campaign financiers are guests at tonight’s White House state dinner in honor of British Prime Minister David Cameron. Here’s the full list of donors attending the dinner tonight, including the range of their contribution and employer, as listed by the Obama campaign: Sally Susman, New York, NY – $500,000+ (Pfizer Inc)
* Nicholas Confessore, March 14, 2012, A Thank You for Obama’s Donors, Dinner With Clooney and Cameron, New York Times, .
Rock stars, Hollywood celebrities, and senior White House officials will all be in attendance at Wednesday’s state dinner, where President Obama will fete the British prime minister, David Cameron, on the occasion of Mr. Cameron’s visit to the United States. And so will be more than two dozen of Mr. Obama’s top donors, some of whom have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for his re-election campaign and for the Democratic National Committee. Several guests were hosts of a March 1 fund-raiser Mr. Obama attended in New York City: real estate developer Tom Bernstein; investor Orin Kramer; Pfizer executive Sally Susman, and Jay Snyder, a principle at HBJ Investments.
* Forbes Video Interview http://video.forbes.com/fvn/cmo/cmo-pfizer-sally-susman
* Carol Felsenthal, October 28, 20111. Like father, like daughter — one bundler begets another, The Hill.
The New York Times’s makes the important point that “Despite a pledge not to take money from lobbyists, President Obama has relied on prominent supporters who are active in the lobbying industry to raise millions of dollars for his reelection bid” . . Obama’s bundlers, while not registered as lobbyists, seem to perform very much like lobbyists, sometimes working for consulting firms, sometimes for private companies. The loophole-ridden rules on lobbying allow them to avoid registration. . . and also to raise money for the president, host fundraisers and even push policies at White House meetings.
First up among Lichtblau’s examples is Sally Susman, executive VP, policy, external affairs and communications at Pfizer Inc., who has bundled more than $500,000 for Obama’s reelection and, writes Lichtblau, “helped organize a $35,800-a-ticket dinner that Mr. Obama attended in Manhattan in June. At the same time, she leads Pfizer’s powerful lobbying shop, and she has visited the White House four times since 2009.”.. . Sally Susman, 50, is the daughter of retired investment banker-turned-Ambassador to the United Kingdom Louis Susman, who raised more than half a million dollars for Obama’s election in 2008. Susman Sr. was so good, over many decades, at sucking up money for politicians that he was nicknamed the Vacuum Cleaner or the Hoover. Obama rewarded him in 2009 with the plum appointment of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Court of St. James’s. Should Ambassador Susman, who will turn 75 shortly after the 2012 election, return home to Chicago, and should Obama be reelected, perhaps Sally Susman’s prowess as a bundler could put her in the position to take her father’s place. If nothing else, the accommodations are lovely — the 35-room Winfield House in Regent’s Park boasts a private garden second in size to the one at Buckingham Palace.