Bice: Sarah Godlewski hates how much Big Pharma charges for drugs. But she didn't mind owning its stock. – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Now that state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski is running for U.S. Senate, she is very concerned about the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs.
“For decades, Washington politicians have promised to lower the cost of prescription drugs,” Godlewski says in a recent TV ad.
“But every year the prices go up. Why? Because Republicans like Ron Johnson and — let’s be honest — too many Democrats don’t have the guts to stand up to the pharmaceutical companies. I’m Sarah Godlewski, and I will.”
But the multimillionaire Democrat had a different attitude about Big Pharma when deciding where to invest her vast wealth.
According to her personal financial disclosure statement filed last August, Godlewski and her husband, Max Duckworth, were sitting on stock in 14 pharmaceutical companies at a total value of between about $64,000 and $446,000.
The companies Godlewski had invested in included such major firms as Abbott Laboratories, Eli Lilly & Co. and Amgen Inc.
Irene Lin, campaign manager for fellow Democratic candidate Tom Nelson, said Godlewski appears to be personally profiting off of companies that she is now attacking for political gain. Nelson, the Outagamie County executive, and Godlewski are among 10 Democrats running for the right to take on Johnson, a Republican
“Why is she so heavily invested in Big Pharma if she believes they are harming Wisconsinites? Do they make pills to cure irony?” Lin said. “We need a senator we can trust to fight for us, and not their stock portfolio.”
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Godlewski’s campaign responded by saying that she and her husband sold their holdings in 13 of the 14 pharmaceutical companies late last year and the final one this year. The campaign did not say how much money she made off of these sales.
The campaign noted that those Big Pharma stocks, which are popular because they provide reliable income, were bought and sold in the course of routine investment management. She was not involved, the campaign said, in the day-to-day buying and selling of her stocks.
“I’m running to serve Wisconsin, not myself,” Godlewski said in a statement. “That’s what I’ve done as state treasurer, and as your senator, I’ll fight for a wealth tax, pass a ban on stock trading by members of Congress and stop the big drug companies from ripping off those who can’t afford life-saving prescription medicine.”
The situation is similar to one involving Democratic candidate Alex Lasry, who ran a television ad to “finally stand up to China.”
Lasry held stock in at least three China-based firms — Chindata, Tencent and Alibaba — for between $101,000 and $202,500, according to his August financial report. Lasry campaign officials say he has sold off all of those stock holdings.
Investments are likely to be a bigger issue for Lasry and Godlewski since they are the only multimillionaires among the Democrats. Johnson also has deep pockets but has been reluctant to fund his campaign since his first election in 2010.
Earlier this year, Godlewski reported she and Duckworth have assets worth between $23.9 million and $60 million, according to a Journal Sentinel analysis. Among their holdings are seven rental properties, including a Washington, D.C., condo they bought in 2017 for $1.2 million.
It cannot be determined if she used any of the money from the sale of her shares of pharmaceutical company stock to pay for her recent round of TV ads.
Last month, she posted a 30-second TV spot and a four-page plan for reining in the cost of prescription drugs. Her plan would allow Medicaid to negotiate for lower drug costs, cap out-of-pocket prescription costs for seniors and limit the price of widely used prescription pills.
“As pharmaceutical companies pull in record profits, folks are skipping pills to make their prescriptions last a little longer, while others are having to choose between their groceries and their life-saving medicine,” Godlewski’s plan said.
According to her financial disclosure forms, the largest stock she owned was in AbbVie, an Illinois-based biopharmaceutical company that was a spinoff of Abbott Laboratories, and Amgen in Thousand Oaks, California.
Godlewski held corporate securities of between $18,000 and $96,000 in each of the two firms. Federal disclosure forms do not require candidates to list their exact holdings, only a range for their different investments.
She and her husband also had stock holdings of $15,000 to $50,000 in BioXcel Therapeutics and between $3,000 and $46,000 in Abbott Labs.
In the year before the 2021 filing, Godlewski reported that she and her husband received dividends or capital gains from their drug company holdings of some $13,300 to $42,600.
Abbott Labs, AbbVie and Amgen are among the 20 pharmaceutical companies that have given the most to federal candidates during the 2021-22 cycle, according to OpenSecrets.org.
Godlewski emphasized in her statement that she has taken no donations from political action committees run by pharmaceutical companies or any other corporation.
“Wisconsinites know I’ll have their back because I’ve never taken a dime of special interest corporate PAC money, and I never will — something not every candidate in this race can say,” Godlewski said.
Godlewski did not name which opponents she might be criticizing.
But in 2016, Nelson did receive a $1,000 donation from the PAC for U.S. Venture Inc., a fuel distributor based in Kimberly, near Nelson’s residence in Appleton.
Nelson’s campaign said it did not appreciate the veiled criticism. Lin said that 6-year-old donation comes from an important Outagamie County firm that employs hundreds of state residents.
“Wisconsinites getting gouged by big Pharma already knew they were corrupt,” Lin said. “But Sarah Godlewski only discovered this after launching her U.S. Senate campaign and now self-funds her campaign ads with lucrative Pharma stock profits.”
Contact Daniel Bice at (414) 313-6684 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DanielBice or on Facebook at fb.me/daniel.bice.