Thursday, July 30, 2009

Lilly Willy Nilly, or I'm Silly on Lilly Shill-y?

I received some choice words after asserting that Eli Lilly CEO John Lechleiter's million dollar gift to United Way was motivated, in part, by the healthcare debate. In response, I wanted to say that I know people give to charity out of generosity, so I do not mean to discount that component.


Mr. Lechleiter could have donated anonymously and asked his family, friends, and fellow executives to do the same thing. He didn't.

Mr. Lechleiter, as board chair for United Way, could have given the donation publicly while instructing the organization NOT to issue a press release. He didn't.

Mr. Lechleiter, as board chair for United Way, could have said, "You know what? Issue a press release, but don't refer to me or Mr. Santini as Lilly executives, and also, don't include a whole paragraph at the bottom of the release ABOUT Lilly. He didn't. (Seriously, look at the release. Why is there a paragraph about Lilly when the company didn't make the donation?).

Mr. Lechleiter (and his wife) committed to give more money NOW than before, even though his Wife has been involved with the agency at least since 2003, and even though United Way receipts were down last year, too.

Mr. Lechleiter is keenly aware of the public perception of big pharma. In September of 2008, he gave a speech to the Economic Club of Indiana during which he stated that one of the 800-pound gorillas in the room is (and I quote), “The Image of the Pharmaceutical Industry” … and he is one ugly dude! He can barely win a beauty contest against tobacco or Big Oil … and that’s saying something!"

Mr. Lechleiter made his commitment NOW, even though the press release stated that the United Way's annual campaign has not begun.

It just so happens that NOW is when Congress is talking about voting on a massive overhaul of the healthcare industry.

I have heard legions of stories about how generous Mr. Lechleiter is. I cannot dispute that, though it sures seems easier to give $250,000 when you make $13 million per year (1.9% of your total income), doesn't it?

But if you can read all of this and say this is JUST philanthropy in operation and nothing more, you're either naive as hell, benefitting from Eli Lilly somehow financially, or somebody I need to hang out with more frequently for inspiration because you have a shockingly optimistic take on people that is refreshing. Let me know when you want to get a beer.



stAllio! said...

sorry, but you still haven't explained how or why it would have been in anyone's best interest for the donation to have been anonymous. frankly, it wouldn't have. putting out a press release benefits all involved, including the united way of central indiana, who might not have scored a story in the paper without lechleiter's pledge.

nor have you explained how congress would even hear about lechleiter donating to his local united way chapter. this isn't the national organization; it's united way of central indiana. other than maybe andre carson or evan bayh, nobody on capital hill will even hear about the donation.

of course lilly gets some good PR out of the donation, which is why they put out the press release. but to jump from that to assuming this is some attempt to influence the health care debate is absurd. as i said on your previous post, lilly has access to far more effective forms of lobbying.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I get it now. You want him to keep his money rather than have United Way take it under un-altruistic circumstances. I hadn't considered the fact that the money might be less helpful to the needy if donors get good will for making the contributions.

That's why you made the same argument when Pat Bauer sent rebate checks to Hoosiers with a note reminding taxpayers that the largesse came courtesy of the Indiana General Assembly...didn't you?

Your cynicism remains too robust and the arguement remains silly.

Anonymous said...

If his motives were more about the healthcare debate and not just altruism, I honestly think it backfires.

When you are a Healthcare or Pharma exec, the last thing you should be doing right now is showing off your money. When people can't afford healthcare or prescription drugs it's probably little consolation to see this guy have so much money that he can give out $1 million and not be effected. Not a good way to get sympathy...

Miklo Velka said...

Well, I'm not really gonna add a ton to this debate, but I do have something to say:

On the Forbes website that shows his total compensation for the year, there are a few other press releases relating directly to Lilly. In each of those press releases there is a paragraph at the bottom that has identical language as that found in the UWCI press release.

This bit is boilerplate.

I'm not saying it should be there; i'm not saying it shouldn't.

However, it is by definition not altruism if he benefits from it. If Lilly benefits from it, he does too based on the number and amount of options he currently holds.

I do hear you stAllio, though, about the attenuated connection between this press release and the national healthcare debate.

...although if we hear about it on the national stage, you're the one who'll be eating your hat as well as a big fat slice of humble pie. If not, Chris, you'll still just be paranoid, even though they are out to get you.

Chris Worden said...

This is awesome! Anonymous 10:33 illustrates well a point I made on Advance Indiana today (if AI puts up my post). If you don't like what somebody says, you make it absolutely ludicrous and/or attribute something to them that they never said or did.

Seriously, me where I said Lechleiter (or anybody else) shouldn't donate. Point to the line that says this, even indirectly, in any of my posts. Last time I checked, when you DONATE anonymously, you STILL DONATE.

Also, show me anything I've ever said or did publicly to support Pat Bauer's inclusion of a note saying a taxpayer rebate was from the Indiana General Assembly?

I thought it was deplorable opportunism, no different than what the feds did with the IRS notices. I don't even think members of the General Assembly should be able to send any mailings out except plain-paper questionnaires with a headshot of themselves (not these glossy fliers with their "look at me at the podium!" action shots!).

At least my colleagues stAllio!, Mikla, and Anon 2:33 can tell me my cynicism is misplaced without taking the grand tour of Straw Man Island. Let's get beers!

jabberdoodle said...

I never honed my mind reading skills, so I can't be sure of Mr. Lechleiter's motives.

I would point out that it could indeed be part of the larger big pharma lobbying effort on health care reform. Part of their strategy is to push reminders at the public regarding the economic impact of big pharma operations in each state so that the public becomes concerned that their money will not flow as freely if health care reform is acheived. This in turn, if successful would put public opinion pressure on those who vote in Congress aye or nay.

It is odd that a private donation would have a boiler plate description of the place the donor happened to work. I doubt many people would even think of do that.