TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida lawmakers accepted more than $1 million from opioid manufacturers and distributors over the past two decades, according to an investigation by The Miami Herald.
The discovery comes as the state sues the same nine companies for their role in the opioid crisis.
"They were on notice as to what they were doing, yet continued to do it and market their products, in my opinion no different than a street level drug dealer," Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, said.
The Herald investigation found those companies gave over $1 million to lawmakers, including $1,500 to Bondi.
Ben Wilcox with the watchdog group Integrity Florida said while the individual donations were relatively small, they still may have had an influence.
"Florida has been slow among the other states in this country to address the opioid crisis," Wilcox said. "I think that can be directly attributed to the companies buying access and influence through campaign contributions.”
Nine of every 10 dollars contributed went to Republicans. Watchdogs say that's to be expected since the GOP dominates the Florida Legislature.
Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, is chairman of the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee. He received the most at $15,250.
“They're not giving this money in the interest of good government. They're giving this money in the interest of government being good to them," Wilcox said.
Gov. Rick Scott, who has received $6,000 from companies named in the suit, also held $300,000 in Johnson and Johnson stock. Scott awarded the company $4.9 million in incentives in 2015.
Rep. Brodeur denied the donations ever influenced his vote, saying they amount to less than one percent of the total contributions to his campaigns.