Who is Katie Porter? How she called out Big Pharma CEO on $13M salary and why she asked to chip in $5 for reelection

Porter said the CEO's salary was '200 times the average American's income and 360 times what the average senior makes on Social Security'

                            Who is Katie Porter? How she called out Big Pharma CEO on $13M salary and why she asked to chip in $5 for reelection
Katie Porter (Getty Images)

Representative Katie Porter who has earned a reputation of asking tough questions is at it again. On September 30, three pharmaceutical executives, including former Celgene CEO Mark Alles, testified on drug pricing for the House Oversight Committee, as per The Week. When he was with the company, Alles allegedly witnessed a huge increase in the price of the cancer drug Revlimid. Porter just showed him the calculations of what it got Alles in return.

She started her questioning by asking Alles if he knew what the cost of a Revlimid pill cost in 2005, The Week reported. It was $215, she reminded that with the help of a whiteboard. Late last year Alles left the company, after its sale to Bristol-Myers Squibb, and the price of a single Revlimid pill was $763. “Did the drug get substantially more effective in that time? Did cancer patients need fewer pills?” Porter questioned, trying to understand why Celgene increased the price. Alles’ response was that the pill proved to be effective in more patients. “So you discovered more patients who might benefit from paying $763 a pill?” Porter hit back stating how the average senior in her district couldn't even afford one pill.

She then moved on to break down how in 2017 Alles made $13 million as the company CEO. “It's 200 times the average American's income and 360 times what the average senior makes on Social Security,” Porter noted. Then she pointed out to Alles that he made "half-a-million dollars, personally, just by tripling the price of Revlimid.” She concluded by saying, “The drug didn't get any better, the cancer patients didn't get any better, you just got better at making money.”

Who is Katie Porter?

Porter is defending her House seat against Republican Greg Raths in California’s 45th Congressional District. Before being elected to office, she was a consumer protection attorney for almost 20 years, reports Business Insider. In 2012, the then-California Attorney General Kamala Harris appointed her to become the state's independent banks watchdog during a $25 billion national mortgage servicing settlement. She defeated two-term incumbent Mimi Walters as part of a Democratic sweep of the Orange County in 2018. As the report suggests, it made Porter the first Democrat to ever represent the state's 45th Congressional District. Since her joining, she has earned a name for herself asking pointed questions during congressional hearings. In August this year, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy struggled to answer simple question such as the cost of mailing a postcard, during Porter’s questioning.

Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA), remotely questions U.S. Postal Service Postmaster General Louis DeJoy during a hearing before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on August 24, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee is holding a hearing on "Protecting the Timely Delivery of Mail, Medicine, and Mail-in Ballots." (Getty Images)

She and her whiteboard have become synonymous with tough questioning. As reported by Time, on March 12 House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing, Porter took out her  whiteboard to explain what it would cost an uninsured American to undergo coronavirus diagnostics. It was estimated to be $1,331. “Fear of these costs [is] going to keep people from being tested, from getting the care they need and from keeping their communities safe,” she told the room, which included Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She pointed out an existing law that allows Redfield the power to make testing widely available during a public-health emergency, she even asked Redfield whether he would commit to raising it. She asked him some alternative of the same question three times. And, Redfield, finally said: “I think you’re an excellent questioner,” he said. “So my answer is yes.”

The single mother of three school-going kids during an interview with Refinery29 said, when asked about President Donald Trump not touching on climate threats during the September 29 Presidential debate, “I’m in Orange County, we’ve had fires coming from L.A. and the impact of these fires is felt across the entire Western half of the United States — in the reduced air quality. We really couldn’t see the sun for days on end because of that thick smoke in the sky. It’s compounding people’s worry about their health — we’re dealing with a respiratory pandemic on top of the air quality from these wildfires. [Trump’s] lack of ability to tackle a health problem, level with the American people, and make a plan to fight back on coronavirus told us everything we need to know about why he is failing and will continue to fail on climate change.”

She recently tweeted: “I'm in this fight because if we don’t have the voice of a single working mom in Congress, we won’t have anyone speaking up about the issues that families like mine face. Before tonight's FEC deadline, can you chip in $5 to support my re-election?” Her fundraising page on ActBlue states: “Katie doesn’t take contributions from lobbyists or corporate PACs, and she doesn’t take money from executives at Big Oil companies or Wall Street banks. This campaign is funded by grassroots supporters like you.”

This particular tweet of hers got a lot of responses. One said, “Im not even in your state & I know how much we all need you in Congress. There's $5 from the Show Me State.” Another said, “I thought I had finished donating for the month after spreading around what little extra I have, but you are a gem. I can't NOT donate one more time. $5 from me.” One stated, “Done. Wish there were many more like you. Sending you all the good election vibes from Portland, Oregon.”





From her official Twitter handle, she shared the clip of her questioning Alles. She wrote: “Half a million dollars. That's the bonus a Big Pharma CEO got for hiking the price of ONE cancer treatment drug. How many patients lost their lives because they couldn't afford this medicine? Here's our conversation.”

This tweet also got a lot of reactions. One user said, “If you ever want to run for president, I’m just saying, I’ll vote for you.” Another commented, “When Rep. Porter pulls out her whiteboard you know the person on the other end of her questions is about to get schooled. I love it. I wish there were more like you in Congress.” One wrote: “It is truly ironic (and sad) that the people running big pharma aren’t actually interested in helping anyone feel better.”





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