Eli Lilly takes more heat for campaign contributions to election objectors

A watchdog group is taking Eli Lilly to task for resuming campaign contributions to lawmakers who voted to overturn the 2020 election and who later opposed an investigation into last year’s riots at the U.S. Capitol.

Lilly was among the many American companies who announced in early 2021 that they would suspend contributions to GOP lawmakers who voted against certifying the election results, only to later resume their financial support.

Lilly said its political action committee, LillyPAC, had temporarily paused contributions to those legislators to “send a message” about democracy but has since resumed contributing on “a case-by-case basis,” believing its actions “were heard—and had an impact.”

Kyle Herrig, president of the nonpartisan watchdog group Accountable.US, isn’t buying it. In a letter to the drugmaker last week, Herrig criticized Lilly, its executives and affiliated trade groups for gifting a total of $82,000 last year to members of the “Sedition Caucus,” the nickname opponents have given to the 147 lawmakers who voted against certifying the election.

According to Herrig, nearly all of the contributions came after each of the lawmakers either opposed or refused to vote on a measure to form a select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack. The measure passed 222-190 on June 30, with only two Republicans voting in favor.

“The lawmakers you assert ‘heard’ your message made a concerted effort to keep the public in the dark about what led to the insurrection and to keep bad actors from facing responsibility,” the letter said.

The letter singles out a $5,000 donation the drugmaker’s PAC gave to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s campaign, as well as a $1,000 contribution to the campaign of Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-Texas). It references remarks Arrington made to a local TV news station in Texas saying that while he condemned the Jan. 6 attack, it had been “dramatized and mischaracterized.”

“Rewarding these clearly unapologetic election objectors with big campaign checks simply flies in the face of your company’s stated goal of being a ‘unifying force in our democracy,’” Herrig wrote.

The watchdog group calls on Lilly to “either align the company’s political spending with its stated values in support of democracy or be open about its real values, which appears to be cultivating political influence in Congress no matter what extreme views the lawmakers hold.”

An Eli Lilly spokesperson defended the contributions in an email to Fierce Pharma Marketing on Wednesday. “LillyPAC supports candidates across the political spectrum who understand the value of a vibrant pharmaceutical ecosystem to address unmet patient needs. Contributions from LillyPAC will continue to be in line with Lilly’s purpose to make life better,” the spokesperson said.

Lilly wasn’t the only pharma company to resume support of certification opponents after a temporary suspension. Johnson & Johnson, Merck and Pfizer have also gone back to contributing to those legislators, according to a report Accountable.US released in January. Corporations and trade groups contributed more than $9 million to fund the campaigns of those legislators last year, the watchdog group said.