Twice last year House Speaker Newt Gingrich tried to interfere with the federal regulatory process on behalf of pharmaceutical companies that contributed to the Progress and Freedom Foundation, the Associated Press reports. The foundation has close ties to Gingrich, supporting a televised college course he teaches. Last September, Gingrich wrote White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, insisting that FDA should give prompt approval to a home AIDS test made by Direct Access Diagnostics, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. Both Direct Access Diagnostics and Johnson & Johnson are listed as contributors to the foundation. The amounts or dates of the contributions weren't disclosed by the foundation, but a spokesman said that an average gift in 1993-94 amounted to $17,625. In the other case, Gingrich and Rep. Cass Ballenger (R-N.C.) wrote FDA Commissioner David Kessler on July 22 to question why the agency had not approved a new drug made by Solvay Pharmaceuticals for obsessive compulsive disorder. The company is also one of the foundation's donors.