Kamala Harris Receives Donations From Big Pharma Executives Despite Claim She Rejects Them

Campaign finance records show Harris has received thousands of dollars from executives at drug companies and distributors this year; most were not returned.

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 17:  Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) addresses the Moral Action Congress of the Poor People's Campaign June 17, 2019 at Trinity Washington University in Washington, DC. The Campaign held the event to focus on issues like “voting rights, health care, housing, equitable education, indigenous sovereignty, living wage jobs and the right to join a union, clean air and water, and an end to gun proliferation and war mongering and other issues in our moral agenda.”   (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Sen. Kamala Harris speaks at Trinity Washington University in Washington, D.C., on June 17, 2019. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Kamala Harris’s presidential campaign, while releasing a new health care proposal yesterday, balked at criticism that private industry interests would seek to influence her election effort.

Ian Sams, the national press secretary for the Harris campaign, told CNN on Monday that Harris “is not taking any money from pharmaceutical executives.”

Federal Election Commission campaign finance records, however, show that the California senator has received thousands of dollars from executives at drug companies this year, most of which has not been returned.

Donors include Therese Meaney, a vice president at Endo Pharmaceuticals, a company that manufacturers opioid painkillers, who has given $1,250 to the Harris campaign; Ted Love, the president and chief executive of Global Blood Therapeutics, a startup biopharmaceutical company, who gave $2,800; J. Dana Hughes, a vice president at Pfizer, gave $250; Damian Wilmot, an executive at Vertex Pharmaceuticals, gave $1,000; and Jeffrey Stein, the chief executive of Cidara Therapeutics, another drug startup, who gave $1,000.

There has been some effort by the Harris campaign to return drug company money. Records show the campaign returned a $2,700 donation from John Guthrie, an executive at Pharmaceutics International Inc., in March, for example. Why some drug company donations were accepted and returned, while others were not, is not immediately clear.

During his remarks, Sams swiped at the Bernie Sanders campaign, suggesting that the demand by Sanders that candidates reject drug and insurance money is hypocritical because Sanders also “took some money from pharmaceutical companies before he gave it back.” Sams added that the donations “blurs the line of what the actual issue is here.” The Sanders campaign returned donations from employees at drug companies last month when they were flagged by ABC News.

In an email, Sams reiterated that the campaign does not accept drug company executive money. Sams said the campaign had already returned the donations from Meaney and Stein, though he did not say when the money was returned. Many of the donations, including donations by Meaney and Hughes, were made early in the year — and were not refunded in either the first or second quarter filings. Sams also said the campaign is in the process of returning the donation from Global Blood Therapeutics’ executive. He did not address the other donations.

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