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Big Pharma Donates Millions To Congress, Including Pa. Members

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- How did the pharmaceutical industry get Congress to relax oversight of opioid distribution?

Follow the money, says the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics.

"The pharmaceutical industry has an enormously influential role in lobbying, as well as through their campaign donations," Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center, told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Tuesday.

This year alone -- which is not a congressional election year -- Big Pharma has already donated $6,965,956 to members of Congress and spent a whopping $145,743,337 on lobbying in Washington.

"Pharmaceuticals is number one just in the first six months, nearly $145 million," said Krumholz.

KDKA took a look at our local members of Congress to see what they've received in campaign donations from Big Pharma over the course of their careers.

Locally, Congressman Tim Murphy leads with $608,480, far exceeding Rep. Mike Kelly at $176,500, Rep. Mike Doyle at $113,500, Rep. Bill Shuster at $48,300, and Rep. Keith Rothfus at $43,500.

But it's the senators who rake in more money than anyone.

Over 15 years in the Senate, Sen. Bob Casey has gotten $790,560 with Sen. Pat Toomey at $617,493 over seven years.

Nobody beats the late Arlen Specter with $1,227,990 from Big Pharma followed by former Sen. Rick Santorum with $810,695.

Krumholz says this money is influential when the public fails to speak.

"If voters are paying attention and speak out and having their wishes heard, I think members would think twice about voting the way they do sometimes, but too often they hear nothing," she says.

In other words, when voters are silent, Big Pharma wins.

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