Bernie Sanders’ Campaign Promises to Return Donations from Big Pharma

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., participates in a rally alongside unions, hospital workers and community members against the closure of Hahnemann University Hospital in PhiladelphiaMonday July 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)
AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma

An ABC News report published Wednesday reveals that Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) campaign has received donations from “big pharma,” despite his campaign’s “No Health Insurance and Pharma Money Pledge.” His campaign, however, has promised to return the donations.

The presidential candidate unveiled his campaign’s “No Health Insurance and Pharma Money Pledge” Wednesday, which states: “I pledge to not take contributions from the health insurance or pharmaceutical industry and instead prioritize the health of the American people over health industry profits.”

In other words, Sanders promises to “not knowingly accept any contributions over $200 from the PACs, lobbyists, or executives of health insurance or pharmaceutical companies.” The pledge does not apply to “rank-and-file workers employed by pharmaceutical giants and health insurance companies.”

According to ABC News’s review of FEC records, Sanders accepted at least three contributions over $200 from donors detailed in the “No Health Insurance and Pharma Money Pledge.” In other words, the campaign broke the pledge prior to making it.

ABC News reports:

One of the individuals who gave to the Sanders campaign is Lynn McRoy, who identifies herself on her LinkedIn page as vice president and global medical lead, breast cancer at Pfizer. She’s additionally identified as the breast cancer lead with U.S. Medical Affairs at Pfizer Oncology in an October 2018 press release. Pfizer is among numerous pharmaceutical companies on Sanders’ list.

ABC News found at least four contributions from McRoy to Sanders thus far in 2019, including one of $500 and another of $250, which would be in violation of the pledge if McRoy is considered an “executive.”

McRoy’s additional two donations, of $100 and $70, fall below the pledge’s $200 threshold, though were given within eight and three days, respectively, of her $250 contribution on March 28.

Another donation of $1,000 came from Schiffon Wong, who identifies herself on LinkedIn as the executive director, global evidence and value development at EMD Serono, a company covered on Sanders’ list that describes itself as a “biopharmaceutical business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany in the U.S.” Both EMD Serono and Merck are on Sanders’ list.

The Sanders campaign told ABC News that it had “full knowledge” that some donations would need to be returned and pledged to do so.

“This pledge was launched today with our full knowledge that some money may need to be returned. We’re glad to donate the three donations worth $2700 out of nearly $40 million received since launch,” Sanders campaign spokesperson Sarah Ford told ABC News.

Sanders issued blows to Democrat frontrunner Joe Biden (D) in recent days, accusing him of using GOP talking points to criticize his plans for rolling out Medicare for All.

“Obviously what Biden was doing is what the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industries, Republicans, do: ignoring the fact that people will save money on their health care because they will no longer have to pay premiums or out-of-pocket expenses,” Sanders told the New York Times.

“The charge that he’s making is exactly what the Republicans are saying,” he added.

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