Clinton outpaces rivals in drug company donations

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has taken more money from employees of America’s 15 biggest pharmaceuticals companies than all of the Republicans who attempted a run for the White House this year combined, according to campaign finance disclosures.

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton departs a discussion on national security during a campaign stop at the Virginia Air and Space Center in Hampton, Virginia, U.S., June 15, 2016. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

The donations, which were nearly double those accepted by Democratic rival Bernie Sanders, came even as the former senator and secretary of state vowed to curb price gouging in the industry if elected.

Clinton’s campaign took nearly $240,000 from employees of the industry between its launch and the end of April, compared with just under $168,000 for all of the Republicans together, including around $1,700 for presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, according to the filings.

The money, a drop in the bucket of Clinton’s nearly $190 million in overall individual contributions, has tended to come from people in top jobs: 54 percent of the donors list their position as executive, director, manager or lawyer. Donors and company officials contacted by Reuters declined to comment on the contributions.

Industry insiders say the sector may be drawn to Clinton for a few reasons: She has a good chance of winning against Trump in November, her policies are relatively transparent and predictable, and she’s more supportive of international trade than rivals.

Many of the biggest pharmaceuticals companies are also headquartered in areas of the country that are more heavily populated by liberals, like New Jersey and New York – another potential reason for the Clinton-heavy employee donations.

“(Trade) is, in particular, an issue for the pharmaceutical industry. They all operate trans-nationally,” said Dan Mendelson, president of Avalere Health, a consulting firm that works with companies across the health sector.

He added: “We have very limited ability to predict what would happen in a Trump administration. We don’t know the people, we don’t have a lot to go on.”

Trump, who largely self-funded his primary bid, only recently began soliciting donations for the general election, meaning his contributions from supporters in all industries are likely to rise in the coming months.

Clinton tapped into widespread public frustration over soaring health costs this winter when she outlined a plan to curb drug price hikes and singled out pharmaceuticals company Valeant, saying she would “go after them” if elected.

Trump’s campaign seized on Clinton’s donations from the industry as proof that she would be unlikely to follow through.

“Hillary Clinton will be totally controlled by the special interests,” Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said.

Clinton has rejected the idea.

“Hillary Clinton has spent her career fighting to crack down on rising prescription drug prices and hold drug companies accountable,” spokesman Josh Schwerin said.

Clinton’s donations from drug companies have grown since the last time she ran, in 2008, but fall far short of her rival in that race, President Barack Obama, who took in more than $500,000 in contributions from employees of pharmaceutical companies during the equivalent period of time.

Clinton’s total in this race so far, however, beats the combined take in the 2012 election of Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney from employees of the industry of $170,000, according to the filings.

Editing by Leslie Adler