By JULIE CARR SMYTH, Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Democratic U.S. Representative Tim Ryan, who has made his opponent’s questionable record in fighting the opioid epidemic a central theme in his campaign for the open U.S. Senate seat in Ohio , has accepted campaign donations over the years from drug distributors accused of key roles in the crisis, according to an Associated Press review.
Contributions to Ryan from Dublin, Ohio-based AmerisourceBergen, McKesson and Cardinal Health, the three largest drug distribution companies in the United States, took place between 2007 and August of this year.
Earlier this year, the companies finalized a $21 billion settlement with state, local and Native American tribal governments and others over the toll of the opioid crisis. The settlement is the largest in opioid claims and prevents the companies from facing thousands of lawsuits.
The trio’s combined donations to Ryan of $27,000 represent a fraction of the campaign contributions he has collected over the years, including $8.6 million for the Senate race in July. Still, they stand out as Ryan hammers the spotty record of the anti-opioid nonprofit started by his Republican opponent, “Hillbilly Elegy” author JD Vance.
Ryan and Vance are locked in a close contest for the coveted Senate seat opened up by retired Republican Senator Rob Portman. Republicans view the seat as a critical seat to fill if they hope to regain the Senate, while a shift to the Democrats would be a major victory in the increasingly conservative state.
The most generous distributor to Ryan was from Cardinal Health Inc., a multinational healthcare services company headquartered in his home state. The company’s PAC has given him $21,000 since 2007, including $5,000 last August. Employees of McKesson Corp. PAC gave Ryan $5,000 in 2012. Amerisource Bergen Corp. PAC gave him $1,000 in 2019. The opioid crisis has continued all these years.
The three companies’ PACs have donated nearly $10.8 million combined to a wide range of candidates across the country since 2007, according to campaign finance figures compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. About $4.5 million of that amount went to Democrats, and the other about $6.2 million went to Republicans. Vance’s campaign received no donations from PACs.
Ryan’s early commercials called Vance’s “Our Ohio Renewal” a “sham” that “didn’t fund a single addiction program” to fight the crisis, but instead backed efforts that “l ‘have worsened’. A second ad featured an August Associated Press article detailing a residency the nonprofit organized for an addiction doctor with links to Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin.
Vance said he was unaware of the addiction doctor’s ties to Purdue Pharma, but he “remains proud of his work treating patients, especially those in an area of Ohio who needed it the most.”
Ryan’s campaign said the congressman helped provide funding to health care providers and law enforcement officials working to fight opioids and worked to expand access to treatment for residents with substance abuse problems.
“Unlike JD Vance, who used his opioid nonprofit to launch his political career and enlist a Purdue Pharma spokesperson to come to southern Ohio communities hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak. opioids, Tim Ryan has a proven track record of working across the aisle to fight this epidemic,” campaign spokesperson Izzi Levy said in a statement.
During the same years that Our Ohio Renewal, now shuttered, operated in southern Ohio, Ryan voted in Congress on a slew of bills aimed at addressing various elements of the opioid crisis — sometimes for, sometimes against. .
He voted overwhelmingly in favor of those efforts, including co-sponsoring the INTERDICT Act praised by President Donald Trump for allocating $15 million to bolster illegal drug testing at the southern border.
But Ryan also opposed several measures aimed at cracking down on opioid and addiction law enforcement, the AP review found. These included funding programs to provide medical care to address the problem and legislation to crack down on illegal fentanyl trafficking. Levy said the congressman has political objections to certain aspects of these bills.
Ryan also missed a 2020 vote on legislation extending the Drug Enforcement Administration’s temporary order listing fentanyl-related substances as Schedule 1 controlled substances. Levy said he was attending a family funeral this that day.
Geoff Mulvihill in Cherry Hill, NJ, contributed to this report.
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