Executive Intelligence Review


Pitchfork Candidates Target Soft-on-Drugs Congress Members

May 14, 2018 (EIRNS)—Fresh Democratic and Republican candidates who have never run for office before are challenging entrenched Congressional incumbents who support loosening restrictions and access to addictive painkillers.

This movement exploded when President Trump’s candidate to head the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA), was booed out of a White House ceremony for his “easy access” efforts. President Trump dropped his support, and now Marino is a target for removal—with a host of others in Congress, in all parties.

Although the role of the law Marino sponsored and Obama signed in 2016 has been exaggerated by party hacks, the ravages of the opioid epidemic have finally galvanized some Americans into running for office themselves, or actively working to elect others, to stop drug addiction. One influential author on the epidemic, Sam Quinones, has proposed attacking the deeper cultural problem by reviving the national mission of the American space program.

In a lengthy article in May 13, 2018 Washington Post, authors Scott Higham, R. Thebault, and S. Ricks detail how some of the incumbents they describe are targeted by candidates who say they are running because the incumbents have large stock holdings in drug manufacturing companies, or even national drugstore chains like CVS. The authors cite one drug and alcohol counselor in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, a mother of two, who lost eight of her clients to opioid overdoses in one month in 2016. She is now running against the politician, Marino, she holds responsible for passing 2016 legislation that “hampered” drug enforcement.

“It’s a big reason why I chose to run,” she said.

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT), who announced this year that he will retire, sponsored the final version of the Marino’s bill in the Senate. Lawmakers said the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) signed off on the legislation and Congress passed it with a parliamentary procedure known as unanimous consent. There was no debate and no recorded vote, and Obama signed it into law without fanfare in April 2016.

Marino was forced to withdraw his nomination to lead the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy for President Trump in Fall 2017.

In Vermont, Dan Freilich, MD, is running a long-shot primary battle against Rep. Peter Welch (D), a co-sponsor of one of the versions of the legislation. “To find a so-called progressive Democrat co-sponsoring a bill to strip the DEA of regulatory capabilities of opioid distribution is incredible,” Freilich said. Welch accepted $79,000 in campaign contributions from companies that backed the measure. During the years that the legislation was pending, Welch bought and sold between $215,000 and $550,000 in Rite Aid stock, disclosure reports show.

Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-WI), a co-sponsor of the legislation, also held at least $500,000 worth of stock in AbbVie, the maker of Vicodin brand of hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen, which includes a widely abused narcotic painkiller. His general election challenger is using the law and the stock holdings against Sensenbrenner. “From a big picture standpoint, this is not the direction we want to go,” said Tom Palzewicz, a Navy veteran and first-time political candidate who runs a small business consulting firm.

Twenty-six congressmen sponsored or co-sponsored versions of the “Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act” in the House, 23 of them Republicans, three Democrats. Many regret it now.