Accused Drug Companies Contribute $192,000 To Elected Officials

Legislative proposal would protect an industry frequently accused of defrauding the state

November 3, 2011

Madison – Statewide officeholders and legislators have accepted $192,000 in campaign contributions from pharmaceutical companies the state has sued for Medicaid fraud, anti-trust violations, false advertising and paying kickbacks to doctors for using their drugs, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign review shows.

The contributions from executives and political action committees of the accused drug companies include $26,285 to Republican Governor Scott Walker; $136,101 to Democratic and Republican legislators and four legislative fundraising committees; $21,700 to GOP Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen whose office represents the state in cases against pharmaceutical companies; and $400 to Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch (Table 1). Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices Annette Ziegler and Michael Gableman, who are technically nonpartisan, accepted contributions of $5,000 and $2,500, respectively, from one of the accused companies after they were elected in 2007 and 2008.

By party, elected Republicans accepted $143,111 from the accused companies – more than three times the $41,375 accepted by Democratic legislators.

The totals include individual contributions from June 2004 through 2010 and PAC contributions from June 2004 through June 2011. WDC tracked campaign contributions from pharmaceutical companies beginning in June 2004 when former Democratic Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager filed a state lawsuit against 20 drug makers. By the time she left office in early 2007, Lautenschlager had expanded the lawsuit to include about three dozen drug manufacturers. Van Hollen, who succeeded Lautenschlager, also has partnered with other states to sue additional drug companies.

One of the proposals the legislature is expected to consider at Walker’s request during its current special session would give pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers immunity from lawsuits by people injured by a product approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The legislative proposal begs the question whether the industry should get state protection from court action by people hurt by their products when many of the companies in the industry have been accused of defrauding public programs or fraudulent marketing about the effectiveness or safety of their products. It also begs the question whether elected officials should accept campaign contributions from individuals and PACs with corporations accused of defrauding programs paid for with taxpayer dollars.

A report issued last December showed the pharmaceutical industry had surpassed the defense industry to become the No. 1 defrauder of the federal government, accounting for at least 25 percent of all payments under the federal False Claims Act in the last decade. At the state level, most lawsuits and court settlements involve drug companies accused of deliberately overcharging state health programs like Medicaid and Medicare, according to the Public Citizen report.

A more recent report issued in late October by the Center for Justice & Democracy at New York Law School cited a 2009 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that said granting the drug industry immunity from lawsuits was bad public policy. The conservative high court said in Wyeth v. Levine that state lawsuits are an added layer of consumer protection that help reveal long-term problems with drugs that injure and kill people that are not detected in FDA testing and are an incentive for manufacturers to disclose safety risks more promptly.

The state has collected about $75 million in Medicaid program reimbursements, forfeitures and other costs from 44 out-of-court settlements and awards with drug makers since mid-2004 to resolve several of the state complaints, according to a Democracy Campaign tally from public statements by the attorney general’s office. In some cases, the drug companies were accused of ongoing violations since the mid-1990s, involving widely used drugs like Claritin, Motrin, Paxil, Zocor, Vioxx and OxyContin among others.

Pfizer and Eli Lilly, whose employees and PACs have contributed the most among drug manufacturers to elected state officials (Table 2), are among the leaders in court settlements and awards paid to Wisconsin in the last seven years. Pfizer has paid the state about $16.4 million, followed by Merck at about $9.3 million and Eli Lilly at $8.4 million.

In a $2.3 billion settlement in 2009 between Pfizer and several states including Wisconsin, Van Hollen said the world’s largest drug maker was accused of fraudulent marketing, selling pain medication for unapproved uses, false statements about an antibiotic’s safety and effectiveness and giving doctors cash and expensive meals, trips and entertainment to get them to prescribe Pfizer’s drugs. Pfizer paid $5 million in restitution to Wisconsin’s Medicaid program.

Pfizer also has been involved in five other court settlements or judgments with the state to settle charges of Medicaid fraud or fraudulent marketing.

Eli Lilly contributed a total of $57,060 to elected officials, including $2,600 to Van Hollen between January 2007 and April 2009 amid two pending cases against the company in which the state ultimately collected about $8.4 million to settle multi-state and federal charges of fraudulent marketing, over billing Medicaid and giving kickbacks to doctors to promote and use Eli Lilly’s drugs.

Overall, contributions from all drug companies since June 2004 totaled $64,710 to Walker, $22,600 to Van Hollen, $169,518 to current legislators and legislative fundraising committees and $2,500 to the lieutenant governor. By party, current Republican officeholders have accepted four times more than Democratic legislators from all drug makers – $209,881 to $49,447.

Table 1
Contributions To Statewide Officeholders And Legislators
From Employees And PACs Of Drug Companies Sued By The State

Name Party Office Amount
Republican Assembly Campaign Committee R A $27,000
Walker, Scott R Governor $26,285
Van Hollen, J.B. R Attorney General $21,700
Committee to Elect a Republican Senate R S $13,500
Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee D A $12,500
State Senate Democratic Committee D S $11,750
Vukmir, Leah R S05 $5,440
Ziegler, Annette Nonpartisan Supreme Court $5,000
Vos, Robin R A63 $3,885
Darling, Alberta R S08 $3,800
Fitzgerald, Scott R S13 $3,350
Gableman, Michael Nonpartisan Supreme Court $2,500
Stone, Jeff R A82 $2,413
Kedzie, Neal R S11 $2,000
Wirch, Robert D S22 $1,975
Leibham, Joe R S09 $1,850
Fitzgerald, Jeff R A39 $1,750
Honadel, Mark R A21 $1,625
Suder, Scott R A69 $1,600
Lasee, Frank R S01 $1,500
Meyer, Dan R A34 $1,450
Moulton, Terry R S23 $1,450
Kerkman, Samantha R A66 $1,400
Fields, Jason D A11 $1,250
Staskunas, Tony D A15 $1,250
Tiffany, Tom R A35 $1,250
Zipperer, Rich R S33 $1,250
Olsen, Luther R S14 $1,200
Barca, Peter D A64 $1,000
Radcliffe, Mark D A92 $1,000
Seidel, Donna D A85 $1,000
Shilling, Jennifer D S32 $1,000
Galloway, Pam R S29 $1,000
Harsdorf, Sheila R S10 $1,000
Strachota, Pat R A58 $1,000
Van Roy, Karl R A90 $1,000
Nerison, Lee R A96 $950
Petrowski, Jerry R A86 $950
Ott, Jim R A23 $900
Hansen, Dave D S30 $875
Risser, Fred D S26 $875
Taylor , Lena D S04 $800
Lassa, Julie D S24 $750
Kaufert, Dean R A55 $750
Kleefisch, Joel R A38 $750
Kramer, Bill R A97 $750
Ott, Al R A03 $750
Vruwink, Amy Sue D A70 $700
Mursau, Jeffrey R A36 $700
Schultz, Dale R S17 $650
Vinehout, Kathleen D S31 $600
Wanggaard, Van R S21 $600
Ripp, Keith R A47 $550
Coggs, Spencer D S06 $500
Holperin, Jim D S12 $500
Jorgensen, Andy D A37 $500
Mason, Cory D A62 $500
Milroy, Nick D A73 $500
Pasch, Sandy D A22 $500
Turner, Robert D A61 $500
Ballweg, Joan R A41 $500
Brooks , Ed R A50 $500
LeMahieu, Daniel R A59 $500
Litjens, Michelle R A56 $500
Kestell, Steve R A27 $450
Knodl, Dan R A24 $450
Kleefisch, Rebecca R Lt. Governor $400
Lazich, Mary R S28 $400
Richards, Jon D A19 $250
Marklein, Howard R A51 $250
Hebl, Gary D A46 $200
Bies, Garey R A01 $200
Kooyenga, Dale R A14 $200
Larson, Tom R A67 $200
Murtha, John R A29 $200
Williams, Mary R A87 $200
Nygren, John R A89 $163
Zepnick, Josh D A09 $100
TOTAL $191,986

Table 2
Employee And PAC Contributions From Drug Companies
Sued By The State To Statewide Officeholders And Legislators

Company Amount
Pfizer $70,513
Eli Lilly $57,060
Abbott Laboratories $23,060
GlaxoSmithKline $21,113
AstraZeneca $17,400
Schering-Plough $1,000
Novartis Pharmaceuticals $940
Amgen $350
Forest Pharmaceuticals $350
Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals $100
Merck $100
TOTAL $191,986