Cory Booker puts 'pause' on fundraising from pharma companies

Cory Booker puts 'pause' on fundraising from pharma companies
© Greg Nash

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said Friday that he has suspended accepting donations from pharmaceutical companies after a backlash from Democrats.

In an interview with NPR's "Morning Edition," Booker said the "pause" was necessary due to public criticism.

"Well, we put a pause on even receiving contributions from pharma companies because it arouses so much criticism and just stopped taking it," Booker told NPR's Rachel Martin.

Booker, who said he hails from "a Big Pharma state," told NPR that the majority of his donations now come from individual contributors. 

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"The other thing that we're trying to do which I'm very proud of is just focus on individual contributions from people around the country," Booker said.

"And I'm proud that the majority of my contributions come from individual contributors, often small-dollar contributors."

In a statement to The Hill, Booker's spokesman Jeff Giertz said that Booker "won't resume" the donations from pharmaceutical companies and executives because "they became a distraction from his efforts to bring down prescription drug costs."

"Earlier this year and without fanfare, Senator Booker stopped accepting corporate contributions from pharmaceutical companies — not only their corporate and industry PACs, but also individual senior executives," Giertz wrote in an email.

"Senator Booker hit pause, and won't resume accepting these contributions, because they became a distraction from his efforts to bring down prescription drug costs — like writing a bill with Senator Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSen. Sanders: 'Hypocrite' Trump rants against undocumented immigrants, but hires them at his properties On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Trump floats tariffs on European cars | Nikki Haley slams UN report on US poverty | Will tax law help GOP? It's a mystery Nikki Haley: 'Ridiculous' for UN to analyze poverty in America MORE to allow for the safe importation of drugs from Canada, pushing for Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices, and cosponsoring landmark, comprehensive drug pricing reform legislation with Senator Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — GOP lawmakers race to find an immigration fix Richard Painter puts out 'dumpster fire' in first campaign ad Bill Clinton says 'norms have changed' in society for what 'you can do to somebody against their will' MORE."

Giertz continued, writing that Booker supports overturning Citizens United and reforming the campaign finance system.

"Senator Booker has long believed that our campaign finance system is broken and has pushed hard for long-overdue reforms, including a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and allow Congress to stop the flow of unlimited money that drowns out the voices of everyday Americans in our politics," Giertz said.

"Our energy must be focused on reforming our broken campaign finance system top to bottom, because Americans deserve a system that lives up to our highest ideals, and what we have now is failing us."  

In January, Booker was blasted by Democratic voters for joining with Republicans in the Senate to vote down a measure aimed at lowering prescription drug costs.

Booker, who joined the Senate in 2013 and stood for election in 2014, received $328,000 in donations from the "Pharmaceuticals / Health Products" industries in 2014, the highest of any Senate Democrat running that year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. During the 2016 election cycle, that number plummeted. Booker will be up for reelection in 2020.

In a statement in January, Booker explained his opposition to the plan, saying it didn't meet American safety standards.

“Any plan to allow the importation of prescription medications should also include consumer protections that ensure foreign drugs meet American safety standards. I opposed an amendment put forward last night that didn’t meet this test.”