President of Group Has Long History of Financial Ties to Drug Industry

SACRAMENTO, CA – A public filing Tuesday revealed that the head of the California NAACP has gone all in with Big Pharma by signing an argument against Proposition 61, the ballot measure to control drug prices, that will appear in the state voter pamphlet provided to all voters.

“Once again, it sadly appears that another venerable California organization – this time a distinguished civil rights group – has traded its endorsement for financial gain from the drug companies,” said Roger Salazar, spokesman for Yes on Prop. 61/Californian for Lower Drug Prices.

The longtime president of the California NAACP, Alice Huffman, has a long history of financial ties to the drug industry. Huffman signed the No on Prop. 61 rebuttal to the ballot argument by the proponents of the measure, identifying herself as president of the California NAACP. Huffman’s deepening involvement with the anti-61 forces was revealed in filings with the California Secretary of State.

Huffman’s Sacramento-based consulting firm, A.C. Public Affairs, Inc., has been paid at least $12,000 to work for the campaign against Prop. 61, which would cap prescription drug prices in California. Campaign finance reports show her Sacramento-based firm received $6,000 and is owed another $6,000 for work from January 1 to March 31 supporting the No on 61 campaign. The No on Prop. 61 campaign has not yet filed its financial report for the period April 1-June 30.

In 2005, Huffman also threw the California NAACP’s support behind Big Pharma’s $85-million effort  to defeat Prop. 79, a ballot measure that would have required drug discounts for those with low incomes, while also serving as a political consultant to the drug companies. During that campaign, Huffman was paid at least $375,000 according to the official state records. Her consulting firm was also reimbursed by drug companies for $415,670 in payments it made for campaign mailings in the 2005 campaign.

Prominent leaders in the African American community previously have criticized Huffman’s drug-industry connections and financial ties. U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters said Huffman’s 2005 political activities in support of the drug industry “dishonored the NAACP,” and then-state Assemblyman Mark Ridley-Thomas found her financial connections to the pharmaceutical industry “very disturbing.”

This is the latest in a string of revelations about the close financial ties between the supposedly independent opponents of Prop 61 and prescription drug industry. In recent days, the following organizations opposing Prop. 61 have been exposed for their dependence on money from drug companies:

  • The San Carlos-based Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation received $1.4 million from seven giant drug companies (including $646,000 from Genentech, Inc.)
  • The Latino Diabetes Assn., a small Montebello non-profit, whose vice chair signed the anti-Prop. 61 ballot argument, received donations from one drug company (GlaxoSmithKline) and undisclosed assistance from another drug-maker (AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP), from a public affairs company now working against Prop. 61 (Cerrell Associates) and from a Georgia-based firm whose top executives currently or previously worked for drug companies (Healing Our Village, Inc.).
  • The Studio City-based Ovarian Cancer Coalition of Greater California and its partner, the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, received at least $295,000 from six drug industry giants, including $142,000 from Genentech, Inc.

In addition, the Yes on Prop. 61 campaign also reported last week that a half-dozen leaders of the California Medical Assn. (CMA), another opponent of Prop. 61, received five- and six-figure payments from drug and medical-device manufacturers. Moreover, the campaign learned that CMA’s directors are paid salaries out of funds that the organization’s own literature suggests may be subsidized by drug company donations.

Proposition 61, on the November ballot, would require the state of California to negotiate with drug companies for drug prices that are no more than is paid for the same drugs by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA).  Unlike Medicare, the DVA negotiates for drug prices on behalf of the millions of veterans it serves, and pays on average 20-24 percent less for medications than other government agencies, and up to 40 percent less than Medicare Part D.  Prop. 61 empowers the state, as the healthcare buyer for millions of Californians, to negotiate the same or an even better deal for taxpayers, saving the state billions.