Biotechnology firm Amgen received a massive gift from the U.S. Senate in last month’s “fiscal cliff” deal, when lawmakers inserted a paragraph into the law delaying Medicare price constraints on one of Amgen’s kidney dialysis medications. That paragraph eliminating price constraints is projected to make Medicare spend up to $500 million on the drug over the next two years.
Progress Kentucky alleges that Amgen has 74 lobbying and financial ties to McConnell. Reilly also charges that the Kentucky Republican Party received Amgen PAC money around the same time McConnell was structuring the $500 million “handout” to the company.
“I worked with some Tea Party groups back in 2007. I heard recently that they were concerned about Amgen, and we were concerned about McConnell’s relationship with Amgen, so I reached out to them and started talking,” Reilly said.
“It’s different down here. Friends I went to high school with, college with, have ended up on the conservative or Republican side. But we’re still able to find some common ground,” Reilly said. “It was funny to me because people were freaking out when they first found out” that Progress Kentucky was in talks to work with the tea party.
Nevertheless, some tea party leaders are keeping Progress Kentucky at arm’s length, aware of how this strange-bedfellows arrangement might look to conservatives.
“I sat down and had lunch with [Reilly] one day,” Louisville Tea Party President Sarah Duran told TheDC. “But I don’t think we’re going to [work with Progress Kentucky]. Our membership would probably have some issues with that.”
“I think there are definitely some people out there who would make better senators or worse senators than McConnell,” Duran added.