Just in time for Halloween, you may have recently seen a spooky new TV ad with ominous music, dark lighting, and concerned-looking seniors. The ad tells viewers a “socialist takeover” of prescription drug benefits is coming and that you should call your congressman and tell him to oppose it.

Typically I don’t spend time drawing attention to baseless attacks, but this time is different. This negative ad demonstrates a big part of what’s broken in American politics: how powerful industries use their money to maintain the status quo and block policies that would make a positive difference for the American people. So, let’s unpack that TV ad.

H.R. 3, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, is the legislation the scary ad calls a “socialist takeover.” Far from being socialist and nowhere near a takeover, H.R. 3 is a package of common-sense measures that an overwhelming majority of Americans support. The bill has three main provisions. First, it allows Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to lower the prices of many of the most expensive prescription drugs that lack competition. Second, the bill puts a $2,000 cap on how much seniors spend out-of-pocket on prescription drugs every year. Third, it limits price increases for seniors on drugs that already exist and often haven’t changed in decades, like insulin. Simple. Straightforward. Common sense.

Reining in pharmaceutical companies’ abusive pricing practices isn’t a socialist takeover. It’s a responsible, common-sense solution to a problem that the Mainers I talk to desperately want Congress to solve. After all, the bill’s negotiation provision alone is projected to save American families $158 billion over 10 years. If Washington had been listening to folks in Maine, legislation like H.R. 3 would have become law years ago. So why hasn’t Congress acted on these policies? Why are we seeing misleading ads on our TVs opposing H.R. 3?

The answer lies in the money behind TV ads like this one. The ad is paid for by a group called American Action Network (AAN). The name sounds benign, even patriotic, but AAN is a classic Washington dark money group. They don’t have to disclose their donors, so normally we wouldn’t know much about them. But thanks to an investigation by a non-partisan government reform organization, we have a window into who funds AAN. Surprise, surprise: AAN’s largest known donor is Big Pharma, who dumped a whopping $12 million into the group. And that’s just the money we know about; the real total may be much higher.

Big Pharma shovels money into shady efforts like this for a simple reason: drug companies benefit from the status quo, and H.R. 3 would curb their excessive price-gouging. The seven biggest pharmaceutical companies made over $50 billion in profits last year. They funnel their profits into dark money groups like AAN to ensure they are never held accountable and can continue to raise prices with impunity. Meanwhile, many of the Mainers I talked with in a tele-town hall last week are choosing not to fill prescriptions because they can’t afford them.

As with so many other pressing issues, the corrupting influence of money in politics is interfering with Congress’ ability to deliver results for the American people. Ads like this one underscore the need to return to a government that works for the public interest, not corporations. Earlier this year, the House took action, passing the most comprehensive government reform and anti-corruption legislation in decades. But we need to keep the pressure up. I hope you’ll join me in calling on the Senate to finally take up our bill and work to end these corrosive influences that stymie our efforts on so many fronts — from drug prices to climate change to the right of workers to form a union.

Don’t let the scary ads sway you – Mainers need action now to lower prescription drug costs, so I’ll continue to stand up to the power of drug companies and other corporations. I’ve signed on to H.R. 3 as a cosponsor, and I plan to proudly vote for it when it comes to the House floor.

 


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