Susan Collins caught lying about donations from opioid industry

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The Maine senator falsely claimed she had never taken money from members of the Sackler family, which owns the company that produces OxyContin.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) claimed earlier this month that she had never taken money from the Sackler family, which owns the pharmaceutical company that produces the opioid pain medication OxyContin.

Collins campaign finance records, however, show that she did.

In a video encounter, posted Thursday by the Maine Beacon, Collins was urged by a constituent to return contributions from Eli Lilly and other pharmaceutical companies that make affordable products.

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Collins responded by noting that federal officials cannot accept money directly from corporations (though she has received tens of thousands from pharma companies' official political action committees).

"I'm not influenced by the contributions that my campaign receives," she told the constituent, who appeared to be sitting across from Collins on board an airplane.

Collins said she would not return those donations because "it doesn't influence how I vote."

The constituent then said she had read that Collins had taken money specifically from the Sacklers, the controversial family that owns Purdue Pharma. The company's OxyContin painkillers have been blamed for much of the nation's opioid crisis.

"From the Sacklers?" Collins replied. "No I have not. Never."

But campaign finance records show that Collins did receive $2,300 — the legal maximum at the time — from Jonathan Sackler in 2007. Her campaign's disclosure form identified him as an "executive" at Purdue Pharma.

She also received $1,000 in 2002 directly from Purdue Pharma's corporate PAC.

Collins did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the contradiction.

In 2007, Purdue Pharma was forced to pay out a $600 million fine after pleading guilty to misleading consumers about OxyContin's addiction risks. That same year, the company was sued by state officials in Kentucky over widespread abuse of the drug in their state.

In 2018, several other states filed their own lawsuit over the drug, alleging Purdue Pharma had engaged in a "deceptive sales campaign." Dozens of other states followed suit, taking the company to court and specifically accusing the Sackler family of being "personally responsible" for the ongoing opioid epidemic.

In December, an internal audit found the Sacklers had withdrawn "more than $10 billion from the company, distributing it among trusts and overseas holding companies" as legal troubles for Purdue Pharma began to mount.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 1999 and 2017, opioids were responsible for nearly 400,000 deaths, or approximately 56.8% of all fatal drug overdoses.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.