If you made $27M working for Big Pharma, you'd be smiling too.

In normal times, someone who held a key leadership role on George W. Bush’s economic team wouldn’t be taken seriously as a presidential candidate. It’s hard to imagine, for example, Andrew Mellon or Ogden Mills running against FDR in 1936.

These aren’t normal times, however, and the Republican field is a mess — so Indiana governor Mitch Daniels is the flavor of the month. But aside from the stink of the many failures of the Bush administration on him, he’s got other skeletons in his closet as well.

…when Daniels worked as a top executive at Eli Lilly & Co., one of the world’s largest drug firms, the pharmaceutical giant’s reputation was tarred by some of the nation’s ugliest drug scandals.

In the decade that Daniels climbed the corporate ladder at Eli Lilly, the company was illegally marketing its leading osteoporosis drug, Evista, as well as its blockbuster antipsychotic, Zyprexa, putting tens of thousands of patients in harm’s way. Lilly pleaded guilty to two criminal misdemeanors, paid more than $2.7 billion in fines and damages, settled more than 32,000 personal injury claims — and copped to one of the largest state consumer protection cases involving a drug company in U.S. history, a review by iWatch News shows.

Big Pharma is about as popular with the public as the health insurance industry, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens to Daniels’ numbers when people find out that’s where he made his money. I don’t mean Republican primary voters, because, to them, being a corporate crook is a feature, not a bug — I mean independents.

What are they going to think of the illegal marketing that made Daniels rich?

“That’s how they [drug companies] operate. They have a fiduciary responsibility to stockholders, and sometimes in their zeal to carry out their fiduciary responsibilities they cheat, lie or engage in criminal activity — and it works.

Daniels left Eli Lilly to become the director of the Office of Management and Budget for President George W. Bush in January 2001. He liquidated Lilly stock worth $27 million at the time.

In a way, Daniels is the perfect Republican presidential candidate in 2012.