Politicians and the misery of pain
Money in politics has been at the root of the Center’s reporting since its creation under Chuck Lewis 27 years ago. Few stories demonstrate the human and national impact of that more than the state political reporting team’s “Politics of Pain” series launched over the weekend in partnership with The Associated Press.
It’s a horrifying story of the tragedy of addiction to painkillers affecting people across the country and the hidden alliance between pharmaceutical companies and politicians which has arguably delayed any resolution to the crisis.
The story is front-page news today across the country thanks to The Associated Press’ reach and capacity to localize the national data crunched by the Center’s team. I’m going to let project manager Kytja Weir explain the project below, but the release is great validation for the idea put forth by Deputy Executive Editor John Dunbar more than two years ago that the anemic level of investigative reporting at the state level can be greatly bolstered nationwide with help from the Center.
Data reporter Ben Wieder did a remarkable job compiling and analyzing the complex data sets that made the project possible, while Liz Essley Whyte’s reporting brought it to life. Kytja, meanwhile, managed the partnership with the AP, shaped the stories and worked tirelessly to ensure the project went off without a hitch. Executive Editor Gordon Witkin was instrumental.
I strongly believe reporting on money in politics in the states is a vital area for the Center as more and more money flows to local and state races because of deadlock in the Capitol.
We are fortunate to have funding for the state reporting team from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.
Here’s Kytja with more on the opioid project:
“For the Politics of Pain, we collected and analyzed campaign finance and lobbying data from 2006 through 2015 on drug makers and their allies who participated in a little-known national coalition called the Pain Care Forum. With The Associated Press, we reviewed hundreds of documents and interviewed more than 150 officials, experts, advocates and others to gain insights into how the political process influenced the response to the opioid epidemic,” she says.
The project shows how Big Pharma and its allies have spent millions of dollars on a 50-state strategy designed to weaken measures aimed at addressing a crippling opioid addiction crisis in America. We traced contributions from drug makers to politicians and advocacy groups who fought limits on drugs such as OxyContin, Vicodin and fentanyl that have contributed to the deaths of more than 165,000 people since 2000. Drug companies have reaped enormous profits by aggressively prescribing opioid painkillers that can lead to addiction to other dangerous drugs, including heroin.
To date, our opioid project has appeared on at least 145 front pages across the country, with at least 69 Sunday front pages and 76 front pages today.
The project is highly readable and compelling in my view:
· Politics of pain: Drugmakers fought state opioid limits amid crisis
· Drugmakers fought domino effect of Washington state opioid limits
· Pro-painkiller echo chamber shaped policy amid drug epidemic
· Key findings: Pharma lobbying held deep influence over opioid policies