Skip to content

A possible candidate for Senator Kennedy’s seat has spent the last ten years building the biggest pharmaceutical lobbying practice in the country. Nick Littlefield is chair of the lobbying group

A possible candidate for Senator Kennedy’s seat has spent the last ten years building the biggest pharmaceutical lobbying practice in the country.

Nick Littlefield is chair of the lobbying group at Boston law firm Foley Hoag, which has raced to the top of the pharma lobbying charts over the last several years. In the first half of 2009, the firm raked in $2.6 million from pharma — more lobbying cash from pharmaceutical interests over the course of six months than any law firm in history, according to a review of lobbying data from Open Secrets.

Top 5 Lobbying Firms for Pharmaceutical Interests, 1st half of 2009 (receipts in millions)

Foley Hoag LLP $ 2,598,000
Podesta Group $ 1,610,000
Sidley, Austin et al $ 1,370,000
Fabiani & Co $ 1,300,000
Patton Boggs LLP $ 1,280,000

Note: Produced using data from Open Secrets / the Center for Responsive Politics. Table does not include companies lobbying on their own behalf.

By comparison, when Littlefield first joined the firm in 1998, Foley Hoag did only $20,000 in pharmaceutical lobbying — meaning their pharmaceutical business has grown by orders of magnitude over the course of Littlefield’s tenure.

Nick Littlefield
Nick Littlefield

Major clients this year include Pfizer, Amgen, Eli Lilly, Genzyme, GlaxoSmithKline, and PhRMA. PhRMA does plenty of lobbying in-house (~$6 million a quarter this year), but also hires outside firms like Foley Hoag to manage aspects of its portfolio.

Before entering the private sector, Littlefield was Kennedy’s staff director and chief counsel at the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee. Other Kennedy associates at the firm include Paul Kim, who has handled more pharmaceutical accounts than any other Washington lobbyist this year, and Brian Carey, formerly a legislative assistant in Kennedy’s office.

Mark Childress, Kennedy’s senior health adviser at Senate HELP since May 2009, was a partner at Foley Hoag in 2007 and 2008. Childress did not handle any pharmaceutical accounts, according to lobbying filings. On the other hand, Foley Hoag experienced a major spike in pharma business in his first year at the firm, 2007. Childress may have played a role similar to his old boss, Tom Daschle, who advises corporate clients at Alston & Bird but is not a registered lobbyist on those accounts.

The pharmaceutical lobby appears to have scored major victories in the bills coming out of the two Senate committees — Kennedy’s HELP and Baucus’s Finance, which released the chairman’s mark on Wednesday. Pharma won a major battle related to biologics in the HELP bill, and won such clear victoris in the Finance bill that they are spending millions to support it.

Foley Hoag made a recent hire that may have helped them influence the Senate Finance/Gang of Six bill: Lindsey Toohey, formerly Senator Kent Conrad’s senior health policy adviser, joined the firm in May, just before the healthcare reform process heated up. This was just the latest in a series of moves to build out the firm’s Life Sciences and Healthcare practices.

Another Foley Hoag health policy specialist, Barrett Thornhill, appears to be married to a former health policy adviser to Chuck Grassley. Joelle Oishi Thornhill is now lobbying for UnitedHealth.

Foley Hoag’s lucrative work for pharmaceutical companies raises questions about Littlefield’s commitment to the healthcare reform agenda that Senator Kennedy called “the cause of his life.” Littlefield and Kennedy were good friends — he reportedly sang “Love Changes Everything” at the Senator’s funeral — but the lobbyist’s private sector record suggests he does not share a similar passion for healthcare policy in the public interest.

Drug money talks, and Littlefield has been raking it in.

Update: Littlefield is also tight with the insurance industry, apparently, as a director of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation in Massachusetts.

Note: I will be releasing more information and cleaned-up supporting data as I’m able.