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Artist's rendering of Mike Ferguson feeding in the swamp. Credit: WikiCommons.

Now that the election is over and Hillary is out of the way, we can finally turn our  attention to Donald Trump. He ran as as outsider and promised crowds he would take on the corrupt political establishment. It was an inspirational message — and let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, for just a moment — as Americans are tired of being ignored by the beltway elite. His supporters believed him and voted him into office hoping he would follow through on his pledge to “drain the swamp.”

It’s hard to know the best place to get that process started, but the healthcare and the pharmaceutical industries would seem like priorities. Trump has made some encouraging noises on the topic, saying he’d try to make it easier for drug companies to sell the public cheaper generic drugs.

As is the case with any policy area where Trump might actually have some interesting ideas — be it student loans or Syria or trade –he’s going to encounter opposition from long-time swamp dwellers, whether elected officials or beltway hangers-ons. 

When it comes to health care, meet little known swamp creature Mike Ferguson.

Ferguson represented New Jersey in the House of Representatives between 2001 and 2009. Then he returned home to co-chair the 2009 gubernatorial campaign of Chris Christie and, after his candidate won, led Christie’s transition team.

Ferguson later became a Senior Fellow for the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest (CMPI), which was founded by Peter Pitts, who worked at the FDA  under George W. Bush. The Center’s work is funded by Pfizer and PhRMA but since it’s a non-profit it’s not supposed to lobby to congress. Thankfully, Ferguson also works for the firm of BakerHostetler, as a senior advisor on federal policy who “helps clients around the world address their most complex and critical business and regulatory issues.”

BakerHostetler is just one of thousands of lobbying firms now scrambling to make sure that their clients continue to do well in Washington under Donald Trump. Matt Fuller of Huffington Post shared an email he received from the firm on Twitter — the sort of emails that are jamming up inboxes across Washington at the moment.

The subject line read, “Former Rep. Congressman Mike Ferguson positions BakerHostetler to be the go-to firm for businesses navigating Trump presidency.” The email went on to explain why Ferguson would be the perfect person to help businesses get a handle on “the new normal” in DC under Trump.

Time will tell how successful Ferguson will actually be but it’s interesting to note that the CMPI, his non-profit, is currently working in a coalition to stop a bill that would speed up the process by which generic drug companies get samples from major pharmaceutical firms. According to an article at MorningConsult.com, CMPI’s partners include corporate-funded outfits like Americans for Tax Reform, the American Conservative Union and the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, which all claim the bill would have“many harmful unintended consequences.”

Like, for example, lowering drug costs, which would be very harmful to the big drug companies but very helpful to everyone else. Good luck draining the swamp, Donald. But a long-time political hack working with an industry-funded research center sounds like just the sort of swamp you should stay out of.

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