As the opioid crisis continues to ravage the country killing more than 130 people per day in the U.S., the makers of the addictive opioid OxyContin face tightening legal challenges. The company, Purdue Pharma, has been run by the wealthy and influential Sackler family for generations. In 2016, the Sacklers were listed by Forbes as the 19th richest family in America with a $13 billion net worth. Both Purdue Pharma and members of the Sackler clan have been active in the political realm.
The company and family have a widespread philanthropic influence as donors to high-profile locales like the Louvre, the Guggenheim, Columbia University and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Now they are faced with numerous lawsuits, including two from the Massachusetts and New York attorney generals that allege the family contributed to the opioid epidemic through deceitful advertising techniques regarding the powerful OxyContin painkiller.
With the company increasingly in the crosshairs of the courts and 2020 presidential contenders like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Purdue Pharma stepped up its Congressional lobbying efforts the past two years. In 2017, the company spent $940,000 and increased it to $1.12 million in 2018, its highest level ever. Nine of the 10 lobbyists Purdue Pharma employed in 2018 are members of the “revolving door” with close Capitol Hill connections like lobbyist Dora Hughes, a former health policy advisor to then-Sen. Barack Obama.
The company also employed the Purdue Pharma PAC to contribute to federal candidates, almost solely Republican ones. The 2018 cycle was not a positive one for the PAC, raising the least it has since 2010 with just $35,679. It also spent the least it ever has, only $20,733.