GOP Presidential Candidates Campaigning In Opioid-Ravaged State Took Cash From Drug Makers That Paid Out Huge Settlements

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Five Republican presidential candidates currently campaigning in New Hampshire have taken donations from the political action committees of opioid manufacturers that paid out millions to settle lawsuits with the state, a Daily Caller News Foundation review of campaign finance records found.

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, former Vice President Mike Pence, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley collectively received more than $100,000 throughout their political careers from PACs associated with pharmaceutical corporations that reached settlements related to the opioid crisis, according to campaign finance records. New Hampshire was among the states hit hardest by the opioid epidemic, having the second-highest rate of opioid deaths in the country, according to a 2020 study.

Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson, AbbVie, Mallinckrodt PLC,  Endo Pharmaceuticals and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries all reached settlements over their alleged roles in the opioid crisis, and their political action committees (PACs) have, in the past, donated to Republicans now running for president. Corporate PACs are entities that donate to political causes while being managed and funded by executives as well as other employees with decision-making authorities.

Tim Scott’s Senate campaign, House campaign and leadership PAC received by far the most out of all the current Republican presidential contenders, taking in $95,400 between 2010 and 2022, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) records.

Johnson & Johnson, Mallinckrodt and AbbVie donated to Scott’s Senate campaigns and to his leadership PAC. Purdue only donated to Scott’s House campaign while Endo and Teva only donated to his Senate campaigns, FEC records show.

The dangers of opioids received heightened scrutiny in 2007 when Purdue Pharma and three of its executives pleaded guilty to concealing information about the addictive properties of their drugs to patients, according to The New York Times. Moreover, a lawsuit filed in 2017 alleged that Endo Pharmaceuticals and a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson were downplaying the addictive properties of opioids in 2009 while profiting from them.

Haley, Scott, Pence, DeSantis and Burgum have been campaigning heavily in New Hampshire to court the state’s voters. Haley hosted a town hall with Moms for Liberty, a parental rights group, in Manchester on Sept. 6. Burgum snagged praise from New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu at an event outside a home in Greenland on Aug. 1. Pence was met by a group of pro-Trump protesters in Londonderry on Aug. 4. DeSantis answered questions from voters at an open forum in Hollis on June 27 and Scott drew a large crowd to see him speak on Sept. 7.

New Hampshire has traditionally been one of the first states to hold primary elections, making it crucial for challengers to remain competitive with the frontrunner for the GOP nomination, former President Donald Trump. (RELATED: ‘No Silver Lining In Slavery’: Tim Scott Goes In On DeSantis Over New Florida Slavery Curriculum)

Johnson & Johnson, Allergan (now AbbVie), Mallinckrodt, Purdue Pharma and Teva have agreed to pay a total of $126.1 million to New Hampshire over their alleged role in the opioid crisis. Nationally, opioid manufacturers have agreed to pay out billions to settle cases related to their role in the opioid epidemic.

“New Hampshire has been devastated by the opioid crisis, and we continue to deal with the impacts of that crisis today,” New Hampshire’s attorney general said in 2022 after Johnson & Johnson agreed to a settlement. “This settlement represents another successful push to get more resources for New Hampshire to align with the disproportionate impact that this crisis has had on our State.”

Scott’s primary rivals also received donations from pharmaceutical companies that paid out opioid settlements, according to state-level campaign finance databases.

Haley’s state house and gubernatorial campaigns received $4,000 from Johnson & Johnson between 2008 and 2014, according to South Carolina’s campaign finance database.

North Dakota’s campaign finance database shows that Burgum’s gubernatorial campaign received $1,000 from Johnson & Johnson. Pence’s gubernatorial campaign got $3,500 from Johnson & Johnson between 2013 and 2015 according to Indiana’s campaign finance database.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s gubernatorial campaigns did not receive any donations from pharmaceutical companies that paid out opioid settlements, according to New Jersey’s state campaign finance database. DeSantis’ House campaign received $6,500 from Johnson & Johnson and Allergan between 2013 and 2017, according to the FEC.

“Ron DeSantis’ record on standing up to the pharmaceutical industry as Governor of Florida makes it abundantly clear that pharma corporations hold no sway over his decisions or policies,” a DeSantis campaign spokesperson told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

No presidential committees for any of the major Republican candidates have received donations from PACs associated with corporations that paid out opioid settlements, according to the FEC’s contribution database.

New Hampshire had an opioid overdose death rate of 26.9 per 100,000 in 2020, according to the state’s department of justice. That year, an individual was more than 20 times more likely to die of an opioid overdose than to be murdered in New Hampshire, according to homicide and overdose statistics.

“It’s a tragic state of affairs in New Hampshire right now,” one New Hampshire resident who lost three friends to opioid overdoses told ABC news in 2018. “I don’t think you can go anywhere in New Hampshire or spend any amount of time here without knowing someone that’s been impacted by the opioid crisis.”

“Increased prescription of opioid medications like oxycodone and hydrocodone led to widespread misuse of both prescription and non-prescription opioids,” according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Oxycodone and hydrocodone are generic opioids that pharmaceutical corporations such as Teva Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson, AbbVie, Mallinckrodt and Endo Pharmaceuticals were involved in manufacturing.

Republican New Hampshire Attorney General Grant J. MacDonald sued Johnson & Johnson in 2018 over its alleged role in the state’s opioid crisis. The pharmaceutical company eventually settled with the state in 2022.

Scott’s congressional campaigns and his leadership PAC have received $27,000 from Johnson & Johnson since 2013.

A spokesperson for Johnson & Johnson directed the DCNF to a website laying out its position on its role in the opioid crisis.

“While opioids have been diverted through illicit prescribing and sales, it is the regular, legitimate prescribing of opioids that created and fueled this crisis,” another lawsuit filed by New Hampshire against Purdue Pharma reads. “A study of 254 accidental opioid overdose deaths in Utah found that 92% of decedents had been receiving prescriptions from health care providers for chronic pain.”

“Chronic opioid therapy—the prescribing of opioids long-term to treat chronic pain—has been a commonplace, and often firstline, treatment since at least the mid-2000s,” the lawsuit continued.

The Scott campaign declined to comment. The Haley, Burgum, Pence and Christie campaigns as well as Scott’s Senate office did not return requests for comment.

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