Ron Johnson challenger claims senator is 'bought and paid for' by Big Pharma
Sen. Ron Johnson (Gage Skidmore)

The campaign of Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who is running to unseat U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, declared Tuesday that the Republican incumbent "is bought and paid for by Big Pharma."

That charge came in response to Johnson's Monday comments about Medicare negotiating the cost of certain prescription drugs, which is included in the Inflation Reduction Act that U.S. President Joe Biden signed into law Tuesday afternoon.

Appearing on "The Brian Kilmeade Show," Johnson told the Fox News host that "when you start punishing the pharmaceutical industry, you're gonna have less innovation; you're gonna have fewer lifesaving drugs. That's not a good thing."

Barnes—who won the Democratic primary last week—said Tuesday that "while Ron Johnson is worried about protecting the bottom lines of big pharmaceutical companies, I'm worried about working families across Wisconsin who are forced to choose between putting food on the table or affording the medication they need."

"For over a decade, Ron Johnson has put big corporations and his wealthy donors before the working people he was elected to represent," he asserted. "In the Senate, I'll hold Big Pharma accountable and ensure every Wisconsinite has a fair shot."

The progressive Democrat's campaign also highlighted recent reporting by The Cap Times that Johnson, while chairing the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs in 2018, "declined to subpoena Teva Pharmaceuticals as part of a Democrat-led investigation of the drugmaker's role in the opioid epidemic." In the months that followed, the company donated to both Johnson's campaign and an affiliated political action committee (PAC).

Johnson spokesperson Alexa Henning told the Madison-based newspaper that the "senator appreciates the support that people offer, but he doesn't personally track who gives what, and donations never impact his views on issues or how he votes." She added that asking about Teva's contributions "is another politically motivated hit job by the corporate media and cheered on by their allies in the Democrat Party."

Barnes' campaign, meanwhile, said Tuesday:

Ron Johnson has a long history of selling out Wisconsinites in favor of his large corporate donors. Earlier this year, Johnson justified sending 1,000 good-paying, family-sustaining jobs out of Wisconsin by claiming, "It's not like we don't have enough jobs here in Wisconsin." Reporting later showed the company shipping jobs out of state, Oshkosh Corp., "ranks seventh among Johnson's top career contributors."

Johnson, a businessman, was elected to the Senate in 2010 and won a second term in 2016.

In his bid to replace Johnson, Barnes has secured the support of various progressives groups across Wisconsin and the nation along with local, state, and federal elected officials, including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

On the healthcare front, Barnes backs not only drug pricing reforms like those in the new law but also putting the United States on a path to universal healthcare by passing Medicare for All legislation at the federal level.

"In the richest nation in the world," the candidate says in a campaign video, "no one should be going bankrupt because of their medical bills."