The big drug companies against lower drug prices illegally funneled and hid more than $400,000 in checks to a bevy of hired-gun so-called “independent experts” who used their public positions of trust to attack Issue 2, according to campaign finance reports that the drug industry was forced to finally make public last week.
“These so-called ‘independent experts’ like former Medicaid directors John McCarthy, Mary Corcoran and Barbara Edwards were simply hired guns for the drug companies, and it is sad that they used their former public trust positions to purposely mislead Ohio voters. In fact, it’s criminal that Ohio voters did not know this sooner,” said Yes on Issue 2 Campaign Manager Rick Taylor. “In addition, we now know late in the campaign that Greg Browning, former Budget and Management director, withheld information about how much he was truly being paid. These four propagandists used the revolving door to cash in on their former positions of trust and traveled up and down the state singing their fraudulent story to newspaper editors and reporters and to anyone else who would listen.”
Taylor said the drug companies intentionally – and illegally – withheld information about the large payments they were making to Corcoran and Edwards’ firms (respectively, Vorys Health Care Advisors, LLC and Health Management Associates) until last week. Vorys was paid $236,699.80, Health Management $95,940. McCarthy’s lobbying firm, Upshur Street Consulting, has been paid $96,000 to date, and Browning’s firm, Capital Partners, was paid $20,000 before the drug companies ever took the legal steps necessary to form a PAC to run a campaign. Browning told a newspaper he was being paid $2,500 a month and never mentioned the hefty earlier payment of $20,000.
“Most of the payments to Vorys and Health Management were made well before July 31 when the drug industry first reported their expenditures – but none of these payments were divulged at that time [in the July 31 report] to Ohio voters,” said Taylor. “The reason for this illegal delay was that the drug companies didn’t want voters and the media to know that these so-called experts were paid handsomely. That information would have instantly called into question the credibility of their report.”
Attorneys for the Yes on Issue 2 campaign Thursday got the green light from the Ohio Elections Commission to continue pressing forward with their complaint that the drug industry violated the state’s campaign disclosure laws in an effort to keep Ohio voters in the dark about who was exactly funding the No on Issue 2 campaign. Even now, what companies or individuals have contributed to the No campaign has not been disclosed and millions of dollars in spending cannot be truly tracked.
“The big drug companies are spending $62 million and counting to run the darkest, dirtiest and most expensive campaign in Ohio election history,” said Yes on Issue 2 Spokesman Dennis Willard.
“McCarthy, Corcoran and Edwards – former political appointees who held top posts in the Ohio Medicaid program – were behind the writing of the Vorys report. That report, dressed up to look like an academic study, was actually just a political hatchet job. Browning told newspapers our math doesn’t work, but refused to elaborate because political hacks don’t show their homework,”said Taylor.
“Their most bogus argument – and one that was sometimes swallowed hook, line and sinker by news outlets – was that Issue 2 was confusing and unworkable,” said Taylor.
In fact, Taylor points out, the plain language of Issue 2 states that the measure adopts the very same drug pricing system that has been successfully used by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for the past 25 years to reduce the price of the drugs purchased by the VA and saved U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars.
“The VA has enjoyed a huge success by simply instructing the drug companies that if they want to sell their drugs to the 8 million veterans in the VA’s health program they need to give the VA a discount of 24 percent off what they charge their other customers,” said Taylor. “And guess what? The drug companies are willing to provide that discount because the VA is a big customer. They want to do business with a customer that big. They’ll want to do the same when Issue 2 passes. They’ll want to keep Ohio as a customer so they’ll play ball.”
Issue 2 will work to save Ohio taxpayers at least $400 million a year.
“That’s money that – for example – could be used to help fund programs to deal with Ohio’s opioid epidemic that has been created by some of the same drug companies that are funding the No on Issue 2 campaign,” said Taylor. “Or it could pay for more teachers, fire and police officers – or for better benefits for those public servants. Or the savings could be passed on to Ohio taxpayers as a tax cut.”