big pharma

Former Eli Lilly President Alex Azar is now in charge of the U.S. healthcare system, thanks to Democrats funded by Big Pharma.

As GritPost previously reported, Azar’s confirmation was only made possible by six Senate Democrats voting against the rest of their party and joining 48 Republicans. Even when counting the vote of Senator Angus King (I-Maine), Republicans were still one vote short of confirming Azar on their own without a tiebreaker vote from Vice President Mike Pence. Nonetheless, Azar was confirmed in a 55-43 vote on Wednesday, despite his record of tripling the price of a life-saving insulin drug while heading Eli Lilly.

While the Democrats who supported Azar have not yet spoken out publicly about why they chose to confirm him, it’s worth pointing out that five of the six Democrats have reaped significant financial contributions from Big Pharma throughout their political careers. While campaign finance data for Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama), who was sworn in earlier this month, is not yet available as of this writing, all of the data used for this article comes from FEC campaign finance reports collected by the Center for Responsive Politics (click the dollar amount to go to each individual senator’s report).

1. Senator Tom Carper (D-Delaware): $509,874 from Big Pharma

Sen. Carper leads the pack of Democrats who voted to confirm Azar with more than $500,000 in campaign donations from the pharmaceuticals/health products industry dating back to 1989. Big Pharma is Carper’s sixth-friendliest industry, according to

2. Senator Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana): $385,820 from Big Pharma

Even though he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012, Sen. Donnelly has been the beneficiary of Big Pharma’s largesse since 2003, when he first ran in the Democratic Congressional primary for Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District. The pharmaceuticals/health products industry ranks #9 on the list of industries that have donated the most to Donnelly’s campaigns. It’s also worth noting that Eli Lilly’s headquarters is in Indianapolis, Indiana.

3. Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia): $308,150 from Big Pharma

Sen. Manchin is an obvious favorite of the mining industry, having sued the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency while he was Governor of West Virginia after the EPA issued regulations on the coal industry. But the pharmaceuticals/health products industry is the 11th most friendly to Manchin, having donated more than $300,000 since 2009.

4. Senator Chris Coons (D-Delaware): $297,700 from Big Pharma

Delaware is the only state where both senators are Democrats, and both of those Democrats voted for Alex Azar’s confirmation. This may be due to the fact that pharma giant AstraZeneca North America Commercial headquarters is located in Wilmington, Delaware. The pharmaceuticals/health products sector is the fifth-friendliest industry for Coons, giving more money to his campaigns than even real estate or commercial banks.

5. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota): $162,113 from Big Pharma

Sen. Heitkamp has voted for all but five of President Trump’s cabinet nominees (she didn’t vote for Betsy DeVos, Mick Mulvaney, Jeff Sessions, Tom Price, or Steven Mnuchin), so her vote for Azar isn’t exactly a surprise. However, it’s notable that Sen. Heitkamp — along with Sens. Carper, Coons, and Donnelly — voted against a 2017 amendment that would have allowed for the importation of cheaper prescription medicine from Canada.

Every senator on this list, with the exception of Chris Coons, is running for re-election in 2018. Joe Donnelly does not yet have a primary opponent as of this writing.


Matthew P. Robbins is a freelance economics contributor covering wages, budgets, and taxes. He lives in Chicago, Illinois with his husband and two cats. 

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