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By Kyra Haas October 31, 2018

Karin Housley twists Tina Smith’s finances to allege profits from big pharma

In a recent Minnesota Republican ad for U.S. Senate, a man and woman clink flutes of champagne on the beach as text rolls across the screen: "Tina Smith loves the good life."

Smith is defending her U.S. Senate seat on Nov. 6. She was appointed to the position earlier this year after fellow Democrat Al Franken stepped down following sexual misconduct allegations.

The "good life" ad comes from Smith’s Republican challenger, state Sen. Karin Housley, and the text on screen quickly departs from the beach scene’s serenity.  

The next line: "Tina profited from the opioid crisis."

The ad lists other dubious ways Smith supposedly enjoys herself, but this one caught our attention. We decided to see if the claim that Smith benefited financially from the opioid crisis held any water.

As evidence of Smith profiting from the opioid crisis, Housley’s campaign sent us financial disclosure forms, pointing to Smith and her husband’s jointly owned stock in Abbott Laboratories of a value between $250,000 and $500,000.

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The Smiths invested in St. Jude Medical, a medical device company, which was acquired by Abbott Laboratories in 2017. After the acquisition, St. Jude Medical stock was changed to Abbott stock.

In 1996, Abbott partnered in aggressive OxyContin marketing with Purdue Pharma — the company responsible for introducing OxyContin as a supposedly safe opioid pill.

In OxyContin’s first year on the market, Abbott made $49 million. That annual figure had jumped to $1.6 billion by 2002.  

But Abbott cut off its opioid connections in 2002, nearly 15 years before it acquired the company in which the Smiths held stock.

The Housley campaign also pointed out that Archie Smith, Tina’s husband, held between $1,000 and $15,000 in stock in Johnson & Johnson, which has been sued for its role in the opioid crisis. Johnson & Johnson is a also a parent company of two companies that have also been sued for marketing opioids. In Smith’s most recent financial report, the income from that stock was between $200 and $1,000.

Our ruling

Housley claimed Smith profited from the opioid crisis. The idea that the Smiths benefited financially from Abbott Laboratories’ actions a full 14 years before the company acquired St. Jude Medical goes too far. Smith’s husband does hold between $1,000 and $15,000 in stock in Johnson & Johnson, but it's hard to draw a straight line from that amount of stock ownership to "profiting off the opioid crisis." 

Overall, the statement is not accurate. We rate this claim False.

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"Tina (Smith) profited from the opioid crisis."
in an ad
Thursday, October 18, 2018

Our Sources

Video, Karin Housley campaign, Oct. 18, 2018

CBS Minnesota, "Karin Housley ad accuses Tina Smith of profiting from shady dealings," Oct. 23, 2018

Press release, Abbott, "Abbott acquisition of St. Jude Medical set to close on January 4, 2017," Dec. 30, 2016

Washington Examiner, "Sen. Tina Smith condemns drug companies but invests more than a quarter million in them," Aug. 3, 2018

The Washington Post, "OxyContin: How misleading marketing got America addicted," Feb. 21, 2018

STAT, "Secret trove reveals bold ‘crusade’ to make OxyContin a blockbuster," Sept. 22, 2016

Email exchange, Karin Housley campaign spokesman Jake Schneider, Oct. 30, 2018

Email exchange, Tina Smith campaign, Oct. 30, 2018

United States Senate, Tina Smith financial disclosures, May 3, 2018

NBC News, "Kentucky sues Johnson & Johnson, subsidiaries over opioid epidemic," April 18, 2018

Reuters, "Kentucky accuses J&J of contributing to opioid epidemic," April 18, 2018

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Karin Housley twists Tina Smith’s finances to allege profits from big pharma

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