Agnes Varis may be the most important woman in New York area Democratic politics. True, the 73-year-old founder and president of Agvar Chemicals doesn't exactly look the part. The New York Times described Varis as looking “more like a quirky great aunt than a political powerhouse.” But looks can be deceiving.
Varis founded Agvar, a supplier of bulk pharmaceutical ingredients, more than 30 years ago. But her political activity has, for the most part, little to do with the pharmaceutical industry. True, when Hillary Clinton's health care initiative prompted a bitter backlash, Varis gave signed copies of Clinton's book, “It Takes a Village,” to 200 drug industry executives as a party favor. And Varis has emerged as an important point figure in just about every Democratic bid to control drug pricing -- the only Republican to ever receive campaign money from Varis is Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz), the sponsor of a bill to speed approval of generic drugs and eliminate loopholes that extend drug patents.