State Defends Ex-Health Chief’s Lobbying of His Old Agency for 2 Clients
As a lobbyist, former state Health and Welfare Secretary David B. Swoap now attempts to influence the same state agency that he once headed, and in resolving two recent cases where disputes arose, the agency came down on the side of its former chief.
On Monday, Deukmejian Administration officials defended Swoap’s lobbying activities. Officials of the health and welfare department denied that his former position influenced their decision.
Swoap’s lobbying firm was hired by two pharmaceutical companies to make their case on what products should be included on a list of drugs that doctors can prescribe for Medi-Cal patients without first receiving special approval. Because listed drugs can be prescribed with few restrictions, inclusion on the list can be worth millions of dollars to a drug manufacturer.
Swoap has been involved in recent battles within the Department of Health Services and the Legislature to add to the list Eli Lilly and Co.'s antibiotic Ceclor and to keep off the list a product that could compete with Smith Kline & French Laboratories’ anti-ulcer drug Tagamet.
In both cases, after receiving conflicting views from staff and advisers, state Health Services Director Kenneth W. Kizer, who until a year ago reported to Swoap, sided with his former boss’s firm.
However, Kizer and his staff insisted Monday, after the lobbying activities were reported by the Sacramento Bee, that the state decisions were made for valid medical and economic reasons and were not unduly influenced by Swoap or his partner, former state Finance Director Michael Franchetti.
Swoap contended that he has very carefully limited his lobbying activities, as required by the state Fair Political Practices Act. Under the statute, a former state official is barred from representing outside interests before state agencies, but only in cases that the official participated in when he still worked for the state.
The intent of the law is to prevent officials from using their public positions to make specific decisions that might help them later on with a private employer, said Lynn Montgomery, a spokesman for the Fair Political Practices Commission, which enforces the act.
“There is no allegation we have done anything improper,” Swoap said in a telephone interview Monday. “It is stretching reason to say we have any influence as former state officials (over employees of the state Department of Health Services).
“We have nothing to give them at this point. What we have done is totally proper and has been done by numerous state officials before me.”
Swoap acknowledged that he attended a meeting where representatives of Eli Lilly tried to persuade Kizer that he was wrong to keep Ceclor off the list of drugs that could be prescribed for elderly patients suffering from a potentially fatal pneumonia resulting from the flu. A special advisory committee to Kizer had recommended that the drug be readily available to physicians for Medi-Cal patients, but a panel from the California Medical Assn. found no evidence for adding the medication, which is several times as expensive as the standard treatment, the drug ampicillin.
Lilly’s representatives insisted that a growing percentage of the pneumonia cases were now resistant to the cheaper medication. Kizer said in an interview that a survey of hospitals showed that the drug company was correct and he reversed his original position.
“I thought it should be available to doctors who wanted to prescribe it,” Kizer said. “From a human perspective, I thought we would be saving some lives . . . and in fiscal terms, there is some intuitive logic that we would be saving some money (by keeping elderly patients out of the hospital). But there is no hard data on that.”
Kizer insisted that he has treated Swoap like any other lobbyist.