From the April 25, 2005 edition of USA Today comes an expose' story showing how much influence the pharmaceutical industry has over US lawmakers. The article starts by describing how drug companies allow their corporate jets to be used by politicians, and that the politicians are only legally required to pay the cost of a first class commercial flight.In addition to flights and numerous other perks, the article chronicles the vast amount of money that the drug industry contributes to political candidates. They note that drug companies and their officials contributed at least $17 million to federal candidates in last year's elections. Additionally it was noted that they contributed nearly $1 million to President Bush and more than $500,000 to his opponent, John Kerry. The Center for Responsive Politics, who keeps track of contributions, listed that in the year 2004 the drug companies spent $158 million dollars to lobby the federal government. They spent $17 million in campaign contributions in 2004 to federal candidates, and an additional $7.3 million in support for the 2004 political party conventions. The article theorizes that the reasoning behind this scale of activity is that drug companies are heavily dependent on federal decisions. They note that it is the federal government that determines which products drug companies can market and how they're labeled. The article also pointed out that the government buys large quantities of drugs through Medicaid, the Veterans Administration and several other programs. When the new Medicare prescription drug benefit takes effect in 2006, the government will be paying 41% of Americans' drug bills, up from 24% at present. Money also buys manpower. According to Amy Allina of the National Women's Health Network, 1,274 people were registered in Washington to lobby for drugmakers in 2003. Of that amazing number, some 476 are former federal officials, including 40 former members of Congress. Ms. Allina commented, "They are one of the strongest, most well-connected and most effective lobbies in Washington. Going up against them is more often than not a losing battle."