Bob Casey, the Senate's Top Recipient of Pharma Cash, Says He’s ‘Standing Up to Big Pharma'

Casey has faced questions over questionable ties to the health care industry

Sen. Bob Casey (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
June 18, 2024

Sen. Bob Casey has taken more campaign cash from drug and health care companies over the past two elections than any other senator, campaign finance disclosures show. Now, as he approaches a difficult reelection bid, the Pennsylvania Democrat says he's "fighting to rein in health care costs and standing up to Big Pharma."

Casey has received $249,563 from drug and health product companies this election cycle, $15,000 more than the second largest recipient, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. The industry gave $570,834 to Casey’s campaign in 2018, nearly $200,000 more than the next closest senator, the records show. In all, Casey has raked in $1.8 million since 2007.

Those contributions have not stopped Casey from portraying himself as a thorn in the pharmaceutical industry's side as he faces the toughest reelection bid of his 17-year career. Casey, who faces Republican businessman Dave McCormick in November, says he has taken on Big Pharma to "rein in health care costs."

"Nobody should have to choose between their health care and putting food on the table," Casey said on April 4.

It’s not the first time Casey has faced questions over questionable ties to the health care industry. As chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, Casey has investigated the "oversight crisis" in America’s nursing homes. But as Pennsylvania state auditor in the 1990s, he came under fire amid allegations that he turned a blind eye to fraud at a nursing home that hired his brother-in-law, Patrick Brier, as a lobbyist.

In more recent years, Casey has opened his Senate office to another of Brier’s clients, the Rehabilitation and Care Providers Association. Casey has appeared at several of the organization’s events and coordinated with the group on legislation handled by the Senate Aging Committee, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

Casey’s pharmaceutical industry donations present a potential conflict of interest given his position on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which oversees drug companies and health care providers.

Casey has accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from pharmaceutical companies in the committee’s crosshairs over drug pricing. Merck, Bristol Myers Squibb, and Johnson & Johnson—whose executives were brought before the committee earlier this year for a hearing about the "outrageously high price of prescription drugs"—have contributed $99,000 to Casey’s campaigns, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Committee chairman Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), who does not accept campaign donations from drug companies, recently opened an investigation into Novo Nordisk over the pricing of its weight loss drugs Ozempic and Wegovy. The drug company’s political action committee has contributed $25,000 to Casey’s campaign, according to campaign finance records.

Casey is not alone in casting himself as an adversary of the industry while taking its money. Sen. Jacky Rosen (D., Nev.), who brags she "took on big drug companies," has taken $135,887 in drug industry contributions this cycle, the seventh highest in the Senate, the Free Beacon reported.

Casey’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.