This is part one in our three part series on Rep. Jim Clyburn.
James Clyburn the congressman representing South Carolina’s 6th Congressional District has been heralded as a man of honor, and even was credited by Bill Clinton at John Lewis’s funeral by saying, “Rep. Clyburn, who I really thank for with a stroke of a hand, ending an intrafamily fight within our party, proving that peace is needed by everyone.”, with regards to his endorsement that saved Joe Biden in the Democratic Primary. The honorable James Clyburn is also a member of a very elite club, because he has taken more money that any other congressman and or congresswoman, when it comes to the Pharmaceutical industry.
The intersection of Clyburn’s campaign donations is very interesting when it comes to the Pharmaceutical industry. The total donations Jim Clyburn has taken from the pharmaceutical industry is to the tune of over $1,000,000 and is far more than any other congressman or woman regardless of party. According to Open Secrets as recently as 2018, Clyburn accepted $20,700 from Pfizer, which is the producer of many pharmaceutical products including Xanax, Zoloft, and Epi-Pen. Pfizer also has a long history of scandalous practices including being fined for $2.3 Billion in 2009, for their aggressive marketing of Bextra, which was a pain killer that was pulled off the shelves after side effects revealed fatal skin reactions. Pfizer has a dangerous history of promoting drugs that were to be used in ways not approved by the FDA. Clyburn when asked by the Post and Currier in 2018 said the donations were accepted due to his “Strong support of medical and scientific research”. Interestingly, Clyburn has taken on average around $100,000 per year since 2007, from the pharmaceutical industry. However, Pfizer isn’t the only company sending large donations to Clyburn. Merck & Co donated $22,600 in 2013. Merck, which also has dealt with a large amount of scandals in recent years including in 2011, when they were forced to pay $950,000,000 to the U.S. Government in fines after Illegally marketing their painkiller Vioxx. Merck was found to be marketing their drug Vioxx for people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, without having clearance from the FDA, which led to numerous deaths. The next scandal ridden pharmaceutical company Clyburn accepted thousands from was Amgen, Clyburn collected $12,000 from Amgen between 2011-2012, only a year after report on Amgen found much like Pfizer and Merck & Co were promoting off label drugs, as well as hiding data attributed to their drug Epogen and Aranesp that in trials found that 70 small cell lung cancer patients treated with those drugs ending up dying 50% faster than others on placebos. Amgen would also end up getting their day in court and have been forced to pay the United State’s Government $71,000,000 for illegally marketing drugs and another $125,000,000 for allegations they were offering kickbacks through copay assistance programs. Another drug company that seems to donate yearly to Clyburn is Abbot Laboratories, which like Pfizer, Merck & Co, and Amgen has also been fined large sums of money for promoting off label uses for their drugs. That however, didn’t stop James Clyburn for accepting their donations between 2013-2018 Clyburn has accepted over $30,000 from Abbot Laboratories and during that time Abbot had a major scandal in 2018, 2016, and a year before his first donation was accepted in 2012. The first scandal in 2012 saw Abbott fined $1.2 Billion for if you haven’t sense a theme so far, off label marketing. This time it involved preying on elderly dementia patients in nursing homes and schizophrenia sufferers with their drug Depakote. However, the only FDA clearance Abbott had for Depakote was for three conditions, Migraines, Epileptic Seizures, and Bipolar mania. The next scandal for Abbott while Clyburn was accepting their payments was their aggressive marketing of Oxycontin, which has led to the opioid epidemic that has plagued our country and has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and lives destroyed. The investigation by the Stat news blog found that Abbot was aggressively courting doctors to prescribe Oxycontin to their patients and the Stat, which obtained internal sales memos and doctor interviews found that: “one of the Abbott representatives showed up with a sheet cake box filled with doughnuts and snack cakes arranged to spell out the word “OxyContin.” and also would take doctors out on lavish diners to gather their support for OxyContin. Abbott sales representatives also referred to their marketing of Oxycontin as their “crusade” and their boss referred to himself as the “King of Pain” the report by the Stat found. However, it doesn’t end their while Clyburn was accepting donations from Abbott they also were fined $25,000,000 in 2018, for providing kickbacks to doctors for prescribing their drug TriCor, and also for illegally marketing their drug for unapproved treatment. Clyburn received and continues to receives donations from some of these companies and the questions is why? Clyburn’s explanation is not sufficient as if he is accepting the donations because of his advocation for research, which is the same argument drug companies make when they are accused of price gouging, it seems like every company on the list of his top donators have all be riddled in scandals from Illegal Marketing, Kickbacks for prescriptions , and other violations while he accepted their money.
“People are reluctant to criticize the giver, to bite the hand that feeds them.”
Rep. John Lewis – New York Times (2008)
One industry that contradicts Clyburn’s commitment to “medical and scientific research” is his donations from Big Tobacco, Altria specifically. Clyburn has accepted yearly payments from the largest Tobacco company in the world since 2003, ranging from $10,000 to $15,000 in 2019. Altria, which owns companies such as Juul, Phillip Morris Tobacco, and USA Smokeless tobacco company, also donated over $50,000 to an endowment Clyburn established at South Carolina State University. This was revealed in a report from the New York Times in 2008, about the Congressional Black Caucus’s coziness to the tobacco industry. Clyburn interestingly never supported a menthol ban on cigarettes, in 2009 or 2020, when the bills were being considered. This led to a rift between some Congressional Black Caucus members including the late Civil Rights hero Rep. John Lewis, who when asked by the New York Times about fellow members of the Congressional Black Caucus accepting donations from Big Tobacco said, “People are reluctant to criticize the giver, to bite the hand that feeds them.” The tobacco industry and companies like Altria, are responsible for over 480,000 deaths per year, and the “scientific and medical research”, which is listed on all tobacco products in the United States and much of the developed world list the dangers of smoking including cancer, lung diseases, and other dangers attributed to the use of their products, however Rep. Clyburn has still taken their donations year after year.
” There is not a single person who put us in the majority
who supports Medicare for All”
Rep. Jim Clyburn – McClatchy (2020)
Representative Clyburn has also taken large amounts of money from the insurance industry. Clyburn has accepted over $100,000 from companies such as AFLAC, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Northwestern Mutual, America’s Health Insurance Plan and Massachusetts Mutual. Many democrats take money from Insurance companies, so this revelation is not entirely shocking, however it does help explain why he endorsed Joe Biden in the 2020 Democratic Primary over Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders’s Medicare for All program, which would have provided single payer healthcare for everyone in America would deal a huge blow to Insurance companies in America, but would be very helpful to people, who can not afford health insurance in this country, and Clyburn’s district which has a median income of only $35,000 would take a large burden off his constituents, but it appears his donations from the healthcare industry would go against that. Jim Clyburn was quoted by McClatchy after he endorsed Joe Biden, he made a comment that ” There is not a single person who put us in the majority who supports Medicare for All.” However recent polling has showed a majority support for Medicare for All, and even in Clyburn’s home state NBC Exit Polls found support for Medicare for All was at 50% to 44% against it. Clyburn being a high ranking member in the House of Representatives, also shows why no major legislation regarding Medicare for All has never made it to the floor. The Intercept reported that in 2019, staff from top Congressional leaders including Jim Clyburn’s attended a retreat at Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, VA where healthcare lobbyists held a retreat with Republicans and Democrats to oppose Medicare for All. The retreat was organized by Center Forward, and the organization has pressed issues such as opposing social welfare spending , taxes on the wealthy, and regulations on business. Center Forward also lobbied for their idea on Medicare Part D, which would maintain lobbyist provisions of the law that bars the government from negotiating lower prices for medicine, and is reportedly costing patients and taxpayers $73 Billion per year. Clyburn’s staff attended along with staff from Reps. Sean Duffy, R-Wisc.; Rodney Davis, R-Ill.; and Will Hurd, R-Tex, and Steny Hoyer, D-Md. , Kurt Schrader D-Ore.,Dan Lipinski, D-Ill.; and Xochitl Torres Small, D-N.M.
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Documents Used writing this story:
New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/25/business/25menthol.html