Saturday, May 19, 2007

Rudolph Giuliani and the OxyContin people

Rudolph Giuliani and the OxyContin people

Well, now if I were the President of this land

You know, I’d declare total war on the pusher man.

God damn the pusher.


Rudolph Giuliani wants to be President of the United States. He claims to be tough on criminals.

In some cases, he is—unless the criminals hire him to be their lawyer.

The people who make OxyContin did something horrible: they sold a drug they knew was addictive and acted like it wasn’t.

I thought the makers of OxyContin got off easy when they agreed to a $600 million fine. Three of their top executives paid an additional $34 million. No jail time.

It was an wimpy settlement with a company that sold over $9 billion dollars of OxyContin.

The reason for the government’s light tough was found in the Washington Post. Rudolph Giuliani was a lawyer for the company that makes OxyContin.

>The Post said that Giuliani personally met with government lawyers more than half a dozen times.

>The story gets more outrageous if you read the “The Blotter” blog by Brian Ross of ABC News. Ross said that Giuliani and his team have advised OxyContin’s makers for the past five years.

According to Ross, Giuliani personally met with the head of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) when the DEA’s drug diversion office began a criminal investigation into the company.

No wonder the OxyContin people got a sweetheart deal: Giuliani is not a guy government bureaucrats want to mess with.

Imagine yourself as a government official and Rudolph Giuliani walks in to negotiate with you. There is a very good chance Giuliani could be soon be President of the United States.

That means you are sitting across the table from a guy who might be your boss.

If a frontrunner for President of the United States wants a good deal, you are going to think hard before you say no.

The OxyContin makers may not have strong morals, but they do have brains. They hired one of the best lawyers money could buy.

The irony is that the old Rudolph Giuliani would have loved to have gone after the OxyContin makers. Rudy got his start as a federal prosecutor and liked to go after white-collar types.

Here was the perfect situation for the old Rudy. You had a company that knew their drug would make people addicts. The company officers devised a plan to market OxyContin to as many people as possible.

The old Rudy would have shut down the company and thrown all the officers in jail.

The new Rudy cut his clients a sweet deal: no one will spend a day in jail. The federal government considered the crime to be a misdemeanor like noodling. Prosecutors are beating their chest about a $600 million fine that is only about 6% of OxyContin total sales.

$600 million is just a cost of doing business. It won’t even hurt the company’s stock price.

$130 million was set aside for the claims of victims. That sounds incredibly low. Everyone who went to the doctor for a bad back and came out a drug addict has a claim. There are thousands of people addicted to OxyContin, and hundreds died.

When you see round ups of street dealers, many are addicts trying to feed their addiction. Many of those addictions wouldn’t have happened if Giuliani’s clients had not been greedy, reckless and stupid.

A better punishment would be to make the company execs take their own product for a couple months and then kick the habit in a county jail cell.

It would give them an idea of what really happened.

The Steppenwolf song “The Pusher” is a graphic depiction of someone addicted. The character wants the President of the United States to declare war on pushers. That doesn’t just mean rounding up junkies and street dealers: it means doing something about big pharmaceutical companies too.

Giuliani is not the President to make that happen.

When the OxyContin people go to meet their maker, I hope that the response they get is, “God damn the pusher.” It would make up for the government letting them off the hook.

Don McNay is the author of the Unbridled World of Ernie Fletcher. You can write to him at or read other things he has written at His award-winning column is syndicated on the CNHI News Service.

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