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This Week in Tarbell

I hope you enjoyed the holiday weekend! Nothing new from us before the holiday, but look out for new content later this week 🙂

If you’re planning to donate on #GivingTuesday (or as we like to call it, #GivingNewsDay), consider donating to Tarbell! We have a lot of big plans for 2020!

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Notable Investigations and Solutions

While we’re all prepping for Thanksgiving and dozing off the food coma, Big Pharma has had a busy news week. Here’s my roundup:

1. Purdue’s blame game: As it tries to downplay its role in America’s opioid crisis, Purdue Pharma has been rallying some of the organizations to which it donates to put out articles and op-eds that push blame away from OxyContin.

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2. Getting off easy: Teva and Sun Pharmaceuticals are in talks with the Justice Department to finally settle a probe into their alleged price-fixing tactics on generic drugs. Bloomberg reports that they could evade indictment if the companies pay fines and promise not to do it again, which sounds like a light punishment compared to their financial haul.

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3. PhRMA scrutinizes: Addiction Policy Forum, a well-connected and generously-funded addiction recovery group lost some love from its primary support, PhRMA, which shaved $2.1 million off its 2019 donation and said it would stop donating altogether next year. PhRMA representatives say the organization mismanaged money, but the Forum strongly denies the claims.

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Moving onto other news:

Bloomberg mobilizes: Michael Bloomberg stepped into the Democratic nominee ring this week and made a first swing state appearance in Virginia. In its coverage of the event, Politico notes that Bloomberg’s financial might gave the state’s Democrats some critical wins early this month, even if he promises not to collect donations.

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Paying for meetings: The 40 legislators who attended a summertime conference on the Democratic party’s legislative direction entered a swamp, where more than 100 companies had paid for sponsorship – and the chance to add their two cents to the party’s plans.

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Opinion: HIPAA’s holes: Commonwealth fund’s president and former Harvard Medical School professor David Blumenthal analyzes the health data project between Google and Ascension Health system, and the holes in HIPAA patient privacy laws that could allow the partnership to remain legal – and add some risk for those of us who are impacted.

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Spotlight on Local Reporting

SC Rep slides by ethics review: Among a group of new magistrates brought into South Carolina’s courts, former state Rep. Mike Pitts was also confirmed, despite his clearly racist remarks on social media and in public. Propublica & Charleston’s Post and Courier explore how the state’s judges escape public scrutiny and allow biased magistrates to take up the gavel.

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Milking politicians: Behind the shelves of your local supermarket’s refrigerated dairy section, there’s a battle of representation unfolding. Representation among dairy and dairy-like products, that is. Lobbyists are descending on Maryland’s Silver Springs to take the phrase “milk” away from companies that make almond, soy and other types of milk substitutes.

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Mystery clients: Former lawmakers in Michigan can walk around the disclosure requirements that they would follow if they’re lobbyists. Instead, they call themselves “consultants”, and can take the same pay and offer similar advice they would in lobbying positions.

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Getting off easy: For spewing potent chemicals into the air at their coal-fired power plant in Montana, Talen Energy has to invest a total $450,000 for city maintenance equipment in the city of Colstrip where they operate.

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