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Bernie Sanders to return donations that violate pledge on private insurance and pharma money

Posted at 2:39 PM, Jul 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-18 16:39:25-04

After calling on his 2020 Democratic opponents to reject money from insurance and drug companies, Sen. Bernie Sanders will return donations he received that violate that pledge, his campaign said Thursday.

The pledge, announced on Wednesday, calls on 2020 campaigns to refuse “contributions over $200 from the PACs, lobbyists, or executives of health insurance or pharmaceutical companies,” except for “rank-and-file workers employed by pharmaceutical giants,” according to a campaign statement.

“It seems to me that if we are going to break the stranglehold of corporate interests over the health care needs of the American people, we have got to confront a Washington culture that is corrupt that puts profits ahead of the needs of the people,” Sanders said during a speech on his “Medicare for All” proposal in Washington, DC.

“I am calling on every Democratic candidate in this election to join me in rejecting money from the insurance and drug companies,” Sanders added.

A CNN review of the campaign’s publicly available donation history found the campaign has received at least six contributions of more than $200 from donors who did not list their official titles when giving money, but whose job descriptions contradict the pledge put forth by Sanders.

After those donations were brought to the Sanders camp’s attention, the campaign quickly announced it would return these donations and any others that do not align with the pledge.

“As done previously, we will be donating any contribution that does not meet the parameters of the pledge to groups combating the health care crisis created by the insurance and pharmaceutical industries,” campaign national press secretary Sarah Ford told CNN.

“This pledge was launched yesterday with our full knowledge that some money may need to be returned,” Ford added.

One of the donors whose money violates the pledge is Lynn McRoy, who listed her job title as “medical director” from Pfizer when she made her donations. McRoy is the vice president and global medical lead on breast cancer at Pfizer, according to LinkedIn. McRoy made seven donations in 2019, five of which were more than the $200 limit. Pfizer is on Sanders’ list of pharmaceutical companies not to accept donations from.

Another donor was Schiffon Wong, who was listed as “researcher” at EMD Serono on the FEC form. She is the executive director, global evidence and value Development at the company, according to LinkedIn, which is part of Merck kGaA, both of which are companies on Sanders’ list not to take money from. Wong donated $1,000.

The donations by McRoy and Wong were first reported by ABC. McRoy and Wong did not immediately return a request from comment from CNN.

Ford pointed out that these donations were only six out of 2 million, noting the donors did not accurately report their executives titles on their donation forms.

“It is on the donor to accurately report their titles,” Ford told CNN.