Last issue, SactoPolitico.com exclusively reported a call from Congressional CA-7 Democratic challenger Jimmy Fremgen for the Democratic incumbent Doris Matsui to donate more than $125,000 in donations she has received from opioid-related companies. This follows recent reports of a record number of opioid-related deaths in the most recently available year (2020) both nationally (100,000) and in Sacramento County (106).
The Matsui campaign was contacted for comment. When reached, a campaign representative at first dismissed Fremgen’s request as “ridiculous” and promised to send a statement. But after more than two weeks of follow-ups, the Matsui campaign has yet to respond.
The silence was not unexpected. Over the last 1½ years, SactoPolitico.com has reached out by phone and email to Matsui’s office for comment on four different stories. These ranged from her opioid donations to local infrastructure projects for which she hoped to fund using President Biden’s new infrastructure program. However, not only has her office never arranged an interview or provided a statement, her Press Secretary George Hatamiya has never returned a single email or call.
Though elected to public office, elected officials are not required to respond to any or all media outlets. But SactoPolitico still followed up with Matsui’s Congressional office and campaign team last week with the below list of specific questions about Matsui’s opioids record and donations from other highly fined corporate donors. These were not responded to either and are reprinted here to allow readers to judge their public relevance.
Questions submitted to Rep. Doris Matsui, April 7, 2022
Over the last 10 years, your campaign committee and leadership PAC have accepted more than $125,000 in donations from the largest U.S. makers and distributors of opioids. This included $36,500 in the 2019-2020 election cycle alone. How do you respond to your Democratic opponent’s recent call to donate this money to Sacramento-area treatment programs?
All 11 of your top opioid industry donors have been sued by the County of Sacramento for significant public health costs and other damage. The county is currently considering joining a major national settlement. What do you say to Sacramento families who have suffered great loss and pain from these companies while you have accepted so much in donations?
After your last re-election, you carried over a $324,506 surplus. You have since taken another $5,000 in donations from opioid-related companies (not including 2022 Q1 figures). Why continue accepting these donations while sitting on such a huge unspent war chest?
A November Sacramento Bee story quoted you as saying, “We need to address this overdose crisis head on, and... [get] life-saving tools into the hands of people who need it most.” But shouldn’t addressing this “head-on” mean more than focusing only on the end users? Isn’t that like saying we must eliminate lung cancer while ignoring the tobacco industry?
In April 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed an industry-written bill that kneecapped important DEA enforcement powers against opioid companies. The next year, you testified in committee that this bill was a good start that needed to be built on. Many former DEA officials said this severely undercut their efforts to reign in the out-of-control opioid industry. Do you regret not voting against this bill?
Four days after your testimony, 60 Minutes and The Washington Post exposed the egregious defects of the 2016 bill. Most lawmakers interviewed admitted they had never read the bill and said it needed to be fixed. But in six years since, Congress has not done so. Why have you not pressed to correct this?
The 2020 CARES Act included a special tax break (called net-operating-loss) to let companies write off Covid-related losses. But the exception was written so broadly it lets opioid companies also write off billions of dollars in unrelated settlements and could shift an estimated $250 billion onto the American taxpayer. Last year, 120 of your Democratic colleagues wrote to Congressional leadership calling for President Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill to be amended to reverse this tax break. You did not join that call. At the time, I contacted your office for comment, but none was provided. I remain interested to know why you didn’t join your colleagues effort to prevent opioid companies from shifting huge portions of their legal penalties onto the American taxpayer?
Your acceptance of donations from highly fined corporations goes beyond opioid companies. During the 2019-2020 election cycle alone, you accepted $337,900 in donations from 91 corporations fined at least a half million dollars since 2000. This included donations from 18 corporations fined at least $1 billion. Johnson & Johnson alone has averaged $1 billion a year in fines over the past 14 years. How is this fundraising in the public interest or of benefit to your Sacramento constituents?
PG&E has been fined nearly $6 billion over the last 10 years, found guilty of causing the deaths of dozens of Californians, and deemed responsible for tens of millions of dollars in private property damage. Over your career, you’ve accepted $81,750 from PG&E, including $9,500 last cycle. What is your rationale for taking money from a corporation like PG&E?
Many politicians say donations to their campaigns show support by the donor for the candidate, but not necessarily the other way around. Where do you draw the line on who you won’t accept a donation from?