WV senator defends drug company's campaign contributions - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

WV senator defends drug company's campaign contributions

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LEWISBURG (WVVA) -

A day after Mylan CEO Heather Bresch announced the company will be offering discounts on the Epipen price hike that launched a national firestorm, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin spoke out Friday in his first public interview. 

The West Virginia Democrat said he plans a detailed review of the drug company Mylan Pharmaceutical's response to his criticism about the cost of Epipens. Manchin's daughter, Heather Bresche, is the CEO of Mylan. 

Bresch first grabbed headlines in 2008 after a Pittsburgh-Post Gazette Report claimed that officials at West Virginia University re-wrote documents showing she had only completed half the amount of credits needed for a degree. Several high-ranking officials, including WVU President Mike Garrison, who was on the board of Mylan at the time, were encouraged to resign over the ordeal. 

While then Gov. Joe Manchin's role in the incident was never clear, it is what happened next, in Bresch's year as CEO, dumping thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to Congress, that has her grabbing headlines once again. 

In 2009, a year after Manchin was re-elected Governor of West Virginia, Bresch is named President of Mylan, a rare feat for a candidate with only an undergraduate degree. But the connection between the political power couple only deepens over the following years. 

In 2010, then-Gov. Manchin sets his sight on a U.S. Senate seat after the unexpected death of Sen. Robert Byrd. Mylan Pharmaceuticals was his top contributor that year at $69,000. 

But it is only a two-year term. In 2012, Sen. Manchin is running again, and this time, Mylan executives give the Senator and additional donation, bringing the total to $127,000.

Because of the $5,000 cap on contributions, the money comes from more than a dozen Mylan executives, including Heather Bresch and her husband, Jeff. Together, they donated $10,000 to the Senator's campaign. 

It is during the same time Congress is considering legislation that would encourage U.S. schools to carry Mylan's star product, the Epipen. The legislation passes by voice vote, but Sen. Manchin is not a co-sponsor. Still, Federal Election Commission (FEC) findings show Sen. Manchin as one of the top five recipients of campaign money before the legislation passes. 

In his first public appearance since news broke on the Epipen price increase, Manchin responded to critics over his financial support and personal ties to the company. 

"I did respond to that yesterday, basically saying that my colleagues were waiting to see the results. Mylan, my daughter, spoke on that issue. I think we all need to find out why Mylan is charging $274 for the product, but on the retail shelf it costs $608. What happened to the $325? Where did that go? We have to find out why medicine and prescriptions are so costly and what is causing it. We're going to find out," said Sen. Manchin. 

When asked whether he plans to continue taking campaign money from the company, Sen. Manchin said "Whoever plans to help, we will look at that. It's a good company, the leading company in West Virginia, the fifth largest employer we have. I would hope they would support me." 

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, (D) Minnesota, whose daughter depends on Epipens, said she plans to call for Congressional hearings on the Epipen price hike.

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