We took note earlier this month of a visit by GOP attorney general candidate George Brauchler to Pueblo, a city hit hard by the crisis over addition to opioid painkillers and who recently joined a nationwide lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies over years of abusive overprescription and unchecked illicit diversion. With all of that in mind, it was striking that Brauchler refused to pledge as his Democratic opponent already has to align the state of Colorado with Pueblo to fight back against opioid addiction in court.
And that wasn’t the only time Brauchler has foot-dragged on the subject, as he wrote on Facebook a month before:
George Brauchler knows that protecting consumers is one of the greatest responsibilities of Colorado’s next Attorney General, and he knows what it takes to fight and win in court. An experienced trial attorney knows that matters involving the use of massive state authority to go after a person or a business is a serious matter and one not to be threatened lightly. [Pols emphasis] But that’s not the kind of thing you can learn from a law school class. As is often the case it’s always those who have never been in fight who boast quickly and loudly about getting into one.
In Colorado last year, almost 400 people died of a prescription opioid overdose in Colorado. Since 2016 the figure is almost 42,000 nationwide according to the Colorado Department of Human Services, who launched an awareness campaign called “Lift The Label” this year to draw attention to opioid overdoses and deaths. Legislation passed this year will add dollars to budgets for treatment and prevention, but the scale of the problem is much larger–as serious as the crisis over tobacco use that prompted a massive settlement with states to fund health programs along with cultural changes that have significantly reduced the number of smokers.
So why would Brauchler be so iffy about a similar solution for the opioid crisis, you ask? As the Salt Lake Tribune reported earlier this year in response to a remarkably similar impasse in that state, there’s a straightforward explanation:
The Republican Attorneys General Association [RAGA] has taken more than $500,000 from Purdue Pharma in recent years. RAGA, in turn, donates to its 29 members, including $300,000 to [Utah Attorney General Sean] Reyes in the past two elections, making it his single biggest donor. [Pols emphasis]
Purdue Pharma is one of the principal villains of the opioid crisis, due to its aggressive marketing of its now-infamous opioid painkiller OxyContin. It was Purdue Pharma who wrongly pushed OxyContin and by extension a whole range of opioid drugs as “less addictive” based on a now-discredited study, which led to mass overprescription, mass addiction, and tens of thousands of deaths. In Utah, Republican Attorney General Sean Reyes only relented and agreed to join the suit after months of intense pressure from fellow Republicans in that beet-red state who were fed up with his inaction.
In a campaign finance report filed today by the Republican Attorney General’s Association’s (RAGA) “independent expenditure committee” in Colorado supporting Brauchler, we learn that RAGA has already topped a million dollars in spending in the 2018 Colorado AG race. This committee is responsible for the overwhelming majority of spending in support of Brauchler’s campaign. Without the support of RAGA, Brauchler essentially has no statewide campaign. This is just a placeholder fallback option after Brauchler couldn’t hack it in a governor’s race.
RAGA knows what they’re paying for. Is there any reason not to believe that so does Purdue Pharma?