HUNTINGTON – U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins again is calling for West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey to sign a “People Over Pills” pledge.
And once again, Morrisey’s U.S. Senate campaign is calling it a desperation move by Jenkins’ competing campaign.
Both are Republicans vying for the Senate seat currently occupied by Democrat Joe Manchin.
“It has been over two weeks since Rep. Evan Jenkins signed the ‘People Over Pills’ pledge promising to reject any contributions from opioid manufacturers, distributors, executives or lobbyists,” a press release from Jenkins’ campaign states. “In that time, not only has Patrick Morrisey refused to sign the pledge and to return the $100,000 in campaign cash he has received from Big Pharma, in a stunning display of hypocrisy, Morrisey is now touring the state to promote faith-based initiatives in the fight against substance abuse.”
On Nov. 14, Morrisey’s office held a “Combating Addiction with Grace” event at a church in Beckley. It followed similar events the AG’s office has conducted in recent months across the state, and more are planned throughout the spring.
“Faith-based initiatives are critical in combating the opioid epidemic,” Jenkins said. “We must all turn to God in times of need to face this challenging epidemic, but we must also deploy every resource available to fight this crisis.
“We cannot tackle the opioid crisis when politicians like Patrick Morrisey are lining their pockets with dirty Pharma money. We must stop the flow of money from Big Pharma to politicians’ campaign accounts.
“Once again, I call on Patrick Morrisey to join me in refusing to accept opioid industry money and to put the people of West Virginian first.”
Morrisey’s campaign spokeswoman dismissed Jenkins’ comments.
“Another day, another desperate ploy from Evan Jenkins’ imploding campaign,” Nachama Soloveichik told The West Virginia Record. “It’s hard to take Evan Jenkins seriously when he is not living up to the terms of his own self-imposed pledge, refusing to return the thousands of dollars he has taken from pharmaceutical companies and lobbyists and lawyers working for pharmaceutical companies.
“While Jenkins continues with his hypocritical games, Patrick Morrisey is busy fighting the opioid epidemic in West Virginia. Morrisey’s office is credited with achieving the largest settlement against pharmaceutical companies in the state, and he has been criss-crossing West Virginia on a faith-based tour to combat drug addiction.
“Perhaps Evan Jenkins should spend more time helping the people of West Virginia and less time tripping over his own pledges.”
Jenkins signed the pledge at a news conference Oct. 30 in Kermit. Jenkins’ campaign said it chose Kermit because it is “one of the many West Virginia communities ravaged by the opioid crisis.” The Mingo County community recently was featured on CBS News’ “60 Minutes” in a story about the state's opioid crisis.
In addition to Morrisey, Jenkins also called for Manchin to sign the “People Over Pills” pledge as well, calling Manchin “Mylan’s favorite senator.” Manchin’s daughter Heather Bresch is CEO of Mylan.
Manchin’s campaign has not returned numerous messages from The Record seeking comment.
Jenkins promised to search his campaign account for any pharmaceutical contributions.
“If anybody can find any, I will make a contribution to charity, or give it back,” he said.
Morrisey’s campaign spokeswoman said “that shouldn’t be too difficult.”
“Over the years, Jenkins has taken thousands of dollars in contributions from pharmaceutical companies and lobbyists and lawyers who represent pharmaceutical companies,” Soloveichik said, including a list of contributions that includes Mylan, Novartis, Express Scripts and Alkermes, among others. “Jenkins’ faux concern about the opioid crisis is all the more laughable, considering Jenkins supported S. 483, also known as the ‘Marino bill,’ which has been blamed for exacerbating the opioid crisis.
In addition to Morrisey and Jenkins, former coal miner Bo Copley has announced plans to run as Republicans for the Senate seat currently occupied by Manchin for the 2018 election. Manchin will face primary competition from environmental activist Paula Jean Swearengin, who already has been endorsed by the Brand New Congress political action committee formed by former staff members and supporters of Bernie Sanders. Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship also has hinted as running as a Republican or an Independent.