Raimondo Donor Sackler Tied to Opioid Crises, Has Donated Millions to RI Charter School Company

Thursday, February 28, 2019


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Governor Gina Raimondo and Purdue Pharma's Jonathan Sackler

A GoLocal review of federal tax documents has found that Jonathan Sackler — who is now being personally sued by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Suffolk County New York for his role in the illegal marketing of opioids which is tied to the deaths of tens of thousands overdoses — has funneled millions of dollars to charter school company Achievement First. The company runs three schools in Rhode Island.

As GoLocal has previously reported, Jonathan Sackler and his wife Mary Corson are significant donors to Governor Gina Raimondo and the Governor has repeatedly refused to donate or return the donations.

Sackler has served as a board member for years for Achievement First, but disappeared from the list of Board member in mid-2018 — about the time that hundreds of lawsuits were filed by states and municipalities against Sackler’s company Purdue Pharma. Purdue Pharma is controlled by the Sacklers and Jonathan has served on the Purdue board for years. The State of Rhode Island and a number of municipalities have filed suit against Sackler's company Purdue -- and other firms.

A clip from a 1998 Purdue Pharma marketing video intended for doctors to show their patients. (Video provided by STAT)

Opioids and Ed Reform

Over a three year period, the most recently available tax documents released show The Bouncer Foundation — Jonathan Sackler and his wife’s foundation  — has donated $1.2 million to Achievement First.

Achievement First in Rhode Island and the parent company’s office in Connecticut both refused to respond to questions.

Another education reform group, Can50, which ran a Rhode Island education reform group CanRI also received $900,000 in donations from the Sackler’s foundation. Can50 closed its Rhode Island operation in 2018.

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The New Yorker feature first published in October of 2017

The Sacklers' wealth and their charitable donations are fueled by the drug sales of OxyContin.

Recently unveiled legal documents show that the Sacklers not only knew of the dangers and addiction of their OxyContin, but did everything possible to cover up the dangers and push the product to doctors to maximize profits.

According to the New York Times, "Richard Sackler has stated that he was not involved in the company’s marketing activities. However, the 2008 email appears to be among the first internal company emails to suggest that Mr. Sackler urged the promotion of higher strengths of OxyContin. Two other members of the family, Jonathan and Mortimer Sackler, were copied in on the email, according to the new disclosures."

Achievement First runs three schools in Rhode Island: Achievement First Iluminar Mayoral Academy Elementary School, Achievement First Providence Mayoral Academy Elementary School, and Achievement First Providence Mayoral Academy Middle School.

The schools claim to outperform other Rhode Island schools. “At Achievement First Providence Mayoral Academy Elementary, our capstone students—fourth-graders—topped the state by 5% points in ELA and a whopping 34% points in math.”

But, the corporate office of Achievement First in Connecticut and the Rhode Island office refuse to answer questions about the ties to Sackler, his continued involvement in the organization and whether the organization sees a conflict with accepting money from an individual being sued for legal responsibility for one of the biggest public health crises in American history.

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MA Attorney General Maura Healey

The New Yorker magazine dubbed the Sacklers, “The Family That Built an Empire of Pain.”

New York’s Suffolk County has filed suit naming members of the Sackler family -- multi-billionaire owners of Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin -- individually, including Raimondo donor Sackler. 

The recently filed New York suit alleges that the Sacklers individually “actively participated in conspiracy and fraud to portray the prescription painkiller as non-addictive, even though they knew it was dangerously addictive.”

Raimondo has received $12,500 from Purdue Pharma scion Jonathan Sackler and his wife Mary Corson -- and unlike Lt. Governor Dan Mckee, who has donated his contributions from Sackler and Corson to substance abuse treatment programs in Rhode Island after the donations were brought to light.

Since GoLocal alerted the Governor’s office of Sackler being named individually in new lawsuits, Raimondo’s office has refused to respond to any questions about the Sackler relationship.

“'This is essentially a crime family … drug dealers in nice suits and dresses,’ said Paul Hanly, a New York City lawyer who represents Suffolk County and is also a lead attorney in a huge civil action playing out in federal court in Cleveland, Ohio, involving opioid manufacturers and distributors,” according to the Guardian of London.

Massachusetts Names Raimondo Donor Personally in Suit

This follows a recent change in legal strategy in Massachusetts, where Attorney General Maura Healey has named the top members of the Sackler family in the Commonwealth’s lawsuit — now, naming them personally, including Raimondo’s donor Jonathan Sackler.

“For [the Sacklers] it’s greed, it was all about profits over people,” Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey told The Guardian. “I feel very confident naming the family members.”

"Purdue’s deadly misconduct has been directed and encouraged by the people at the top of both Purdue Pharma Inc. and Purdue Pharma L.P. — the CEOs of the two companies and directors. A small group of people controlled Purdue and got extraordinarily rich from it. With that great power came the obligation to act responsibly. The directors and CEOs disregarded their obligation and instead directed Purdue’s massive and deadly deception," states the Massachusetts lawsuit.

"The directors and CEO control Purdue Pharma Inc. and Purdue Pharma L.P. and run the companies as their personal enterprise. Richard Sackler, Jonathan Sackler, Beverly Sackler, Theresa Sackler, Mortimer Sackler, Kathe Sackler, Ilene Sackler Lefcourt, and David Sackler hold seats on the Board of Directors of Purdue Pharma Inc. Their family owns the company. Richard, Jonathan, Beverly, Theresa, Mortimer, Kathe, and Ilene have been on the board since the 1990s. David has been on the board since 2012," said the suit.

Unlike the Massachusetts lawsuit, the Rhode Island lawsuit does not name the Sacklers personally.


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