OxyContin manufacturer should be required to ask for judge’s permission before making political contributions, creditors contend.
Attorneys for creditors indicated in a recent court filing that Purdue Pharma, the giant drug manufacturer responsible for OxyContin, should not be able to make political contributions moving forward without express permission by a judge. The company has been front and center in the opioid litigation, criticized for its role in downplaying the detrimental effects of the popular drug that has contributed to thousands of U.S. overdose fatalities. Purdue filed for bankruptcy in 2019 and individuals had until June 30 of this year to file claims against the company.
The issue at hand concerns Purdue’s extensive history of influencing policymakers with its contributions, which might be thwarted if it were required to request permission. “The Political Contributions – $185,000 in donations to associations whose members include the very public servants with whom the Debtors are attempting to negotiate a consensual resolution of these cases – are precisely the sort of transaction that demand close scrutiny,” creditors stated in their filing.
Purdue said it would “stop giving money to the Democratic and Republican attorney general associations,” and both organizations agreed to return contributions made since 2019. The Republican group indicated it would return $60,000, while the Democratic organization said it already sent back its $25,000. The Republicans Governors Association also indicated it would return the funds.
Ed Neiger, an attorney who represents individuals with opioid use disorder and their families in the case, said of the contributions, “I’m not sure that can be interpreted as anything other than a bribe.”
Purdue responded, “We have maintained long-standing membership in organizations that allow us to follow key industry-related issues that are relevant to our wide range of products and pipeline. These memberships are completely proper and in line with payments Purdue and hundreds of other companies have made for years.”
The company added, amid bankruptcy, it stopped making contributions to individual candidates. A Sackler representative said at the time, “Our family continues to believe that the bankruptcy reorganization process is the most efficient and effective way to reach a resolution that delivers critical resources to the individuals, families and communities most in need.”
Prior to filing Chapter 11, Purdue donated $125,000 to the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) in 2018 as well as more than $500,000 to RAGA in 2016.
“It certainly appears that Purdue Pharma is playing the game to try to influence litigation,” said Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist with Public Citizen. “Certainly, this is a good way of doing it, giving money to the governors and the attorneys general association…[Purdue is] not doing it for partisan purposes, they seem to be doing it to influence the litigation that they are involved in.”
OxyJustice, a group founded by artist Nan Goldin, who organized protests to stop the Sackler family from making charitable donations to museums, said of Purdue’s alleged political ties and the issue of seeking permission, “We are alarmed, but not surprised, to learn of Purdue’s pervasive influence. As we fight for transparency and accountability in Purdue’s bankruptcy, we demand that the government reject blood money – whether from campaign contributions or settlement offers. In court, the most important voices are being drowned out – those of the people harmed.”