McConnell Received $50K From Big Pharma After Blocking Bill To Lower Drug Prices

Screengrab/CNBC Television/YouTube

William James

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promised the Lower Drug Costs Now Act would die in the Senate, and then he raked in $50k.

After the House passed legislation in September that would work to reduce the cost of prescription drugs, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised the bill would never come up for a vote in the upper chamber.

And his move apparently paid off: According to The American Independent, McConnell saw an influx of more than $50,000 in donations from entities and individuals related to the pharmaceutical industry by December.

H.R. 3, known as the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, “would allow the federal government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies on the cost of prescription drugs for Medicare, restrict price hikes, and limit out-of-pocket costs.”

And though the bill passed in a Democratic-controlled House, it would serve to help President Donald Trump fulfill one of his 2016 campaign promises: to allow the government to negotiate Medicare drug prices.

But McConnell’s response to the legislation was immediate and firm.

"Socialist price controls will do a lot of left-wing damage to the healthcare system. And of course we're not going to be calling up a bill like that," he told reporters on the same day House Speaker Nancy Pelosi outlined the bill’s provisions.

The American Independent noted that polling shows a solid 88 percent of Americans agree that the government should be able to negotiate drug costs for Medicare, but the pharmaceutical industry is strongly opposed.

Just days after McConnell made clear the bill would die in the Senate, money began to flow from the prescription drug industry into his campaign coffers.

Federal Election Commission filings show that the Kentucky Republican “received a $2,500 check from Takeda Pharmaceuticals' political action committee” on October 16.

A few weeks later, “multinational pharmaceutical company Novartis' PAC also sent $2,500 to McConnell,” followed by “a PAC for another pharma company, Emergent BioSolutions,” dropping another $2,500 the senator’s way.

More money came in from the “corporate political action committees of Bluebird Bio ($2,500), Boehringer Ingelheim ($5,000), Greenwich Biosciences ($2,500), Teva USA ($10,000), and UCB ($2,500),” leaving McConnell with more than $30,000 in contributions by the end of December.

McConnell’s Bluegrass Committee leadership PAC raked in some dough as well, federal filings show, with Merck & Co. contributing $5,000 and Sanofi kicking in $2,500.

Pharmaceutical executives also assisted the effort, with Gilead Sciences CEO Daniel O'Day donating $5,000; Amgen lobbyist Helen Rhee contributing $2,000; and $5,600 coming in from McConnell’s “former policy director and current Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America registered lobbyist Hazen Marshall.”

The handful of companies and individuals who responded to The American Independent’s requests for comment all indicated their donations were not tied to specific legislation. Others did not respond at all.

But the publication noted that “several of the donations represented the first or largest contributions McConnell had received in years from those supporters.”

Read the full report.

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