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Drug firms in opioid crisis donated $27,000 to Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan

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Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, who has made his opponent’s questionable record fighting the opioid epidemic a central theme of his campaign for Ohio’s open U.S. Senate seat, has received campaign donations over time from drug distributors blamed for key roles within the crisis, an Associated Press review found.

The contributions to Ryan from AmerisourceBergen, McKesson and Dublin, Ohio-based Cardinal Health, the three biggest drug distribution firms within the U.S., got here in between 2007 and August of this yr.

Earlier this yr, the businesses 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 most important over opioid claims and keeps the businesses from facing 1000’s of lawsuits.

The trio’s combined giving to Ryan of $27,000 represents a fraction of the $50 million he has collected over the course of his profession. Still, contributions from those donors are notable as Ryan hammers the spotty record of the anti-opioid nonprofit began by his Republican opponent, “Hillbilly Elegy” writer JD Vance.

Ryan’s campaign spokesperson called him “one in all Congress’ most outspoken fighters against the opioid epidemic.” She noted that Cardinal is a significant Ohio employer and the businesses’ donations represent just one-fifth of 1% of the $17 million Ryan raised this quarter alone.

Vance’s nonprofit, Our Ohio Renewal, spent excess of that “for political polling and consultant fees to his top political advisor — when it wasn’t promoting a Purdue Pharma-linked doctor with a popularity for downplaying the deadly threat of OxyContin,” spokesperson Izzi Levy said.

Vance’s campaign said accepting the donations represented “shameless hypocrisy” by Ryan. It had not yet reported its latest fundraising figures Wednesday.

Ryan and Vance are locked in a good contest for the coveted open Senate seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman. Republicans see the seat as a critical one to carry in the event that they hope to retake the Senate, while a flip to Democrats can be a significant victory within the increasingly conservative-leaning state.

The distributor most generous to Ryan was from Cardinal Health Inc., a multinational health care services company headquartered in his home state. The corporate’s PAC has given him $21,000 since 2007, including $5,000 this August. McKesson Corp. Employees PAC gave Ryan $5,000 in 2012. Amerisource Bergen Corp. PAC gave him $1,000 in 2019. The opioid crisis was ongoing during all those years.

The three firms’ PACs have donated nearly $10.8 million combined to a big selection of candidates across the country since 2007, in response to campaign finance figures compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. About $4.5 million of that went to Democrats, and the opposite roughly $6.2 million went to Republicans. Vance’s campaign has not received any donations from the PACs.

Ryan’s early ads called Vance’s Our Ohio Renewal a “sham” that “didn’t fund a single addiction program” to fight the crisis, but quite backed efforts that “made it worse.” 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 manufacturer of OxyContin.

Vance has said that he didn’t know in regards to the addiction doctor’s ties to Purdue Pharma, but that he “stays pleased with her work to treat patients, especially those in an area of Ohio who needed it most.”

Ryan’s campaign said the congressman had helped bring funding to health care providers and law enforcement officials working to fight opioids and had worked to expand access to treatment for residents with substance abuse issues.

“Tim Ryan has a proven record of working across the aisle to combat this epidemic,” campaign spokesperson Levy said in an announcement.

Throughout the same years that the now-shuttered Our Ohio Renewal was operating in southern Ohio, Ryan was casting votes in Congress on a bunch of bills geared toward tackling various elements of the opioid crisis — sometimes for, sometimes against.

He voted overwhelmingly in support of such efforts — including co-sponsoring the INTERDICT Act praised by President Donald Trump for allocating $15 million to beef up illegal drug screenings on the southern border.

But Ryan also opposed several measures geared toward addressing opioid enforcement and addiction, the AP review found. Those included funding packages geared toward providing medical care to deal with the issue and laws intended to crack down on illegal fentanyl trafficking. Levy said the congressman had policy objections to features of those bills.

Ryan also missed a vote in 2020 on laws 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 on that day.

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