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STATE OF AFFAIRS: Opioid Lobby Threw Out Cash To Presidential Campaigns

(January 5, 2017) – Over a year ago, Vertava Health took to the streets to bring you the most up-to-the-minute, detailed accounts of our nation’s drug epidemic state by state. We spoke with the nation’s top leaders in addiction, recovery, law enforcement and state government to keep readers informed on each state’s progress in battling an epidemic that is killing over 129 people a day in the United States.


A recent report by The Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity  found opioid proponents to be a big part of American politics, with a scathing amount of donations from groups that comprise the Pain Care Forum – made up of pharmaceutical companies and their alleged allies. This week, while sifting through data recovered from these news agencies and cross-referenced with ethics watchdogs, we discovered the opioid lobby spent a surprising amount of money not just on Congressional campaigns, but they also had an interest in contributing to Presidential races.


The investigation comes as the number of overdose deaths from prescription painkillers has soared, claiming the lives of 165,000 people in the U.S. since 2000. Reports analyzed campaign finance and lobbying data from 2006-2015, reviewed hundreds of documents and conducted more than 150 interviews. The AP and Center for Public Integrity found that drugmakers and allied groups employed an annual average of 1350 lobbyists in state capitals around the country and contributed to a total of 7,100 candidates for state-level office.


Drugmakers and their allies spent more than $880 million on campaign contributions and lobbying over the last decade nationwide as they worked to influence state and federal policies. The groups have an array of political interests that include opioid advocacy, and their spending was 8 times that of the gun lobby during the same period. By comparison, groups advocating for limits on opioid prescribing only spent about $4 million.


Members of the Pain Care Forum contributed to more than 8,500 different candidates for state and federal office from 2006-2015, with contributions to an average of more than 3,300 candidates per even-year election cycle. From 2013-2015, more than 800 state bills about opioids were introduced across the country, according to Quorum, a legislative tracking service. Of those bills, at least 207 were approved.


From 2006-2014, more than 356,000 people died of drug overdoses in the U.S. Prescription painkillers and heroin account for the majority of the deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of overdoses increased by 37% in that period, with more than 47,000 people dying of overdoses in 2014. In 2015, more than 227 million opioid prescriptions were written, enough to provide a prescription to 9 out of 10 U.S. adults.


In the study, the membership of the Pain Care Forum was determined by looking at membership directories for the organization from 2006-2013, obtained by the Center for Public Integrity. The Center for Public Integrity and Associated Press then searched for contributions and lobbying data attributed to members of the Pain Care Forum. The analysis is based on federal campaign finance data from the Center for Responsive Politics and Federal Election Commission, plus federal lobbying data from the U.S. House of Representatives Office of the Clerk and IRS data from about 527 groups (national political groups such as the Republican Governors Association, regulated by the IRS) collected by the Center for Public Integrity.


Federal totals include contributions to candidates, their leadership committees, federal parties and political action committees. All the organizations included in this analysis are involved in a number of issues beyond opioids and it’s impossible to say how much of their spending was directly related to influencing opioid laws. The data doesn’t include independent expenditures. The data doesn’t include contributions to politically active nonprofit organizations, that typically don’t disclose their donors.


The numbers may not include all relevant contributions received by candidates. Specifically, data for these candidates may not include all leadership PAC donations. Candidate totals represent a minimum, according to the study. The 2016 Presidential campaign data is not complete and reflects contributions from 2015. The data for Presidential campaign contributions made in the year 2016 do not apply. This particular blog is based on a minimum amount of Presidential campaign contributions leading up to 2016.


This blog is not an endorsement nor an attack of any Candidate, political party or group, and is not an accusation of any wrongdoing or unethical practices on the part of any Candidate. It is a study and observation of data collected on who the opioid lobby is spending its money on. Vertava Health holds no political position and is simply reporting research we conducted of the data released by the Associated Press and Center for Public Integrity.


Here are the Presidential Candidates, who, according to the report, received the most money from the opioid lobby, ranked from most to least:


Barack Obama 2012



Barack Obama 2008



Mitt Romney 2012



John McCain 2008



Hillary Clinton



Hillary Clinton 2016



Rudolph W. Giuliani 2008



Jeb Bush 2016



Mitt Romney 2008



Chris Christie 2016



Ron Paul 2012



Rick Perry 2012



Fred Thompson 2008



Marco Rubio 2016



Bernie Sanders 2016



Newt Gingrich 2012



Ted Cruz 2016




John Edwards 2008



Tim Pawlenty 2012



Mike Huckabee 2008



Ben Carson, M.D. 2016



Tommy Thompson 2008



Scott Walker 2016



Rand Paul 2016



Rick Santorum 2012



Jon Huntsman 2012



Gary Johnson 2012



Carly Fiorina 2016




Bill Richardson 2008



Lindsey Graham 2016





John Kasich 2016



William Kreml 2016



Herman Cain 2012



Thomas Vilsack 2008



Martin Joseph O’Malley 2016



Mike Huckabee 2016



Tom Tancredo 2008



Ralph Nader 2008



Donald J. Trump 2016



Bob Barr 2008



Alan L. Keyes 2008



Rick Santorum 2016



Jared Blankenship 2012



Lawrence Lessig 2016



Rick Perry 2016



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