Illinois Senate President Don Harmon, other politicians continue to take money from Johnson & Johnson, other pharmaceutical companies involved in the opioid crisis

In 2017, the Ohio Attorney General sued Johnson & Johnson and other drugmakers, claiming they had “misled prescribers into believing that opioids were not addictive, that addiction was a easily overcome or that the addiction could actually be cured by taking even more opioids.

In 2019, Oklahoma government lawyers called Johnson & Johnson the “pivot” of the opioid crisis, likening the pharmaceutical giant to a Mexican drug cartel.

In 2021, New York’s top law enforcement official said opioids “have wreaked havoc in countless communities” and that Johnson & Johnson “helped fuel that fire.”

But Illinois politicians continue to take campaign money from Johnson & Johnson and other companies paying $26 billion to settle lawsuits that accuse them of fueling the opioid crisis, according to court filings. campaign financing.

Illinois Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, is the most prominent of them. Harmon accepted these corporate-related campaign contributions that have been portrayed by government lawyers across the country as corporate villains in the opioid crisis:

  • $2,000 last September from a Johnson & Johnson political action committee.
  • $2,000 in 2020 from a Johnson & Johnson fund.
  • $2,000 in December from Fidelity Consulting Group LLC, a Rosemont lobbying firm that lobbies for Johnson & Johnson.
  • $7,500 over the past two years from companies lobbying on behalf of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a Washington, DC trade group to which Johnson & Johnson and other opioid sellers belong.

Harmon won’t talk about taking campaign contributions from companies related to the opioid crisis.

Opioid money won’t ‘compromise its values’

Asked why he continues to take the money, a spokesperson for the Illinois Democrat, rather than answering questions, said: “Over two decades in office, President Harmon has fought without let up on progressive policies that force the wealthy and corporations to pay their fair share, lower health care costs for working families, and protect consumers from abuse. No donation from any source will ever compromise its values.

Asked about his political contributions, a Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman points to a statement on the company’s website that reads: ‘We do not expect candidates who receive contributions from our political action committee employees or our company agree with our positions on any or all specific policy issues. Rather, we seek to support applicants who recognize the importance of medical innovation in improving lives and that a fair, market-based system provides the best environment for continued innovation. We also seek to support candidates who recognize the importance of broad access to affordable, quality health care.

Earlier this year, Johnson & Johnson was among four companies that agreed to pay $26 billion to settle lawsuits accusing them of making money from highly addictive painkillers while ignoring the health and wellbeing of people. users.

Hundreds of thousands of overdose deaths nationwide have been reported in recent years, including, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 75,000 opioid-related deaths from mid-2020 to mid-2021.

In Cook County, more than 10,000 deaths since 2016 have been linked to opioid overdoses. Statewide, the number is nearly 23,000 from 2008 to 2021.

Opioid payment is coming to Illinois

State governments are among those poised to get a share of the $26 billion settlement — including about $760 million earmarked for Illinois — to spend on drug treatment and prevention.

At a press conference last month, Harmon’s fellow Democratic Governor JB Pritzker explained how that money will be handled and called the opioid crisis “one of the most disturbing examples of corporate greed.” and medical mismanagement in the history of mankind”.

Governor JB Pritzker watches Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul speak in Chicago at a campaign event in 2018. Both of their offices are embroiled in a legal settlement — with an estimated $760 million earmarked for Illinois – with four companies sued over the opioid crisis.

Among those involved in the settlement, Johnson & Johnson manufactured opioids and Cardinal Health, McKesson Corp. and AmerisourceBergen distributed the narcotic painkillers.

As part of the settlement, each of these companies will pay billions of dollars. Johnson & Johnson – which, like others who have settled rather than be tried, have admitted no wrongdoing – has also agreed to stop selling opioids in the United States.

Harmon, who was elected Senate Speaker in 2020, received a $2,000 campaign contribution from McKesson in 2021.

That same year, the company also donated $750 to state Rep. Barbara Hernandez, D-Aurora. Hernandez, who did not respond to calls or emails seeking comment, was nominated to the Legislative Assembly in 2019 when Pritzker tapped her predecessor to lead the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.

Harmon, who has served in the General Assembly since 2003, accepted $250 from Cardinal Health in 2004, according to Illinois State Board of Elections records that show he got a total of about $150,000 from the pharmaceutical industry during his political career.

Welch among pols taking money linked to opioids

Campaign finance records also show:

  • Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, who assumed the legislative post in January 2021, accepted a campaign contribution of $2,000 from Johnson & Johnson in November, $1,500 in 2020 and $500 $ in 2019. Welch also received $750 in 2020 from McKesson. Welch and his aides would not answer questions about these contributions.
Illinois House Speaker Emanuel

Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch at a May event with Illinois Senate Speaker Don Harmon.

  • In total, since 1994, Illinois politicians’ campaign funds have collectively raised about $450,000 from the four companies involved in the opioid settlement, including about $360,000 from Johnson & Johnson.
  • The pharmaceutical research and manufacturing group has given more than $300,000 over the past two decades to Illinois politicians, including nearly $140,000 for campaign funds controlled by Welch’s predecessor, the former president of the House Michael Madigan. Sarah Sutton, spokesperson for the professional group, said: ‘We are engaging with policy makers on both sides of the aisle who have a wide range of opinions and health care priorities.
  • Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, whose office oversees Illinois litigation against the pharmaceutical industry, received a campaign contribution of $1,000 from the pharmaceutical trade group in 2006 and $500 from Johnson & Johnson in 2015, both while at the General Assembly. Elected to his current position in 2018, he has received campaign contributions from pharmaceutical companies, including $500 from AbbVie.
North Chicago-based AbbVie is among pharmaceutical companies that have agreed to pay billions to settle opioid claims.

North Chicago-based AbbVie is among pharmaceutical companies that have agreed to pay billions to settle opioid claims.

AbbVie has also donated money to pols

Last month, North Chicago-based AbbVie agreed to pay more than $2 billion to settle lawsuits over how its Allergan unit, which it bought in 2020, marketed opioids.

Teva Pharmaceuticals, which bought part of Allergan in 2016, announced a settlement agreement last month that could see it pay more than $4 billion to settle opioid claims.

Harmon has received $25,000 in campaign contributions from AbbVie since 2013, including $5,000 in June and $15,000 in 2021, records show.

AbbVie gave Welch $21,500, including $5,000 in June and $15,000 in 2021, records show.

AbbVie, which like Teva is a member of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the trade group that has given Illinois politicians a lot of money, gave then-state Rep. Christian Mitchell $1,000. in 2018. After Pritzker took office in early 2019, he appointed Mitchell as one of his deputy governors.

Mitchell also received a $500 campaign contribution in 2015 from Fidelity Consulting Group. None of the lobbyists running the company returned calls or emails.

Asked about the contributions, Mitchell’s response was, “Let me talk to my team, see if it’s appropriate to ‘discuss this’ and get back to you.” He did not do it.

Vice Governor Christian Mitchell.

Vice Governor Christian Mitchell. Before being a top aide to Governor JB Pritzker, Mitchell was in the General Assembly and his campaign fund took money from the pharmaceutical industry.

Fidelity gave $1,000 in 2021 to state Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-Evanston, who also received $500 from Johnson & Johnson in December.

Gabel also took $500, in 2016, from Purdue Pharma. The company, longtime run by members of the billionaire Sackler family, pleaded guilty in 2007 and 2020 to criminal charges stemming from marketing practices that “downplayed” the risks of addiction to the opioid OxyContin.

Gabel has worked in public health for years.

“I’ve worked with pharmaceutical companies on immunization issues for many years, for childhood immunizations,” says Gabel. “So they throw a little money at me once in a while.”

State Representative Robyn Gabel, D-Evanston.

Rep. of State Robyn Gabel, D-Evanston.

Back To Top