Reality Check: When journalism makes a difference
If you want to know the way Washington works, there is no better example than the 60 Minutes/Washington Post joint investigation into how the drug industry managed to muzzle the DEA with the help of Congress.
In case you missed it, it was a story of how the country's largest drug distributors figured out that it was cheaper to buy influence in Washington than fight the Drug Enforcement Agency.
In 2013, the DEA began cracking down on how drugs were being diverted from crooked doctors and pharmacies into communities.
One example, according to the report, is a pharmacy in rural West Virginia that ordered nine million hydrocodone pills over two years for a population of 392 people.
The DEA, at the time, had the authority to immediately freeze such shipments, and its crackdown generated more than $340 million in fines against the drug distributors.
So, according to the report, the industry turned to Congress.
It found a champion in Pennsylvania Congressman Tom Marino, whose state was being ravaged by thousands of drug overdoses a year. Marino introduced a bill that would prevent the DEA from freezing suspicious drug shipments-- the agency's most powerful tool.
The drug industry hired dozens of former DEA investigators to work for it and spent more than $100 million lobbying for the bill.
In 2016, it passed both the House and Senate and was signed into law by President Obama. Marino and the drug industry declared victory.
Opioid abuse is not a partisan issue. It claims the lives of conservatives and liberals alike-- 200,000 lives in the last two decades.
The Trump administration has a chance now to succeed where the Obama Administration failed.
Last week, Senator Lisa Murkowski and Democrat Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, wrote a letter to the president asking him to follow through on his commitment last August to declare opioid abuse a national emergency.
The President is promising such a declaration sometime next week.
Meanwhile, in the wake of the 60 Minutes/Washington Post investigation, Congressman Marino has withdrawn his name as the President's choice as America's drug czar overseeing the DEA.
Perhaps it's one small victory in the fight against opioid abuse, all because the press exercised its role as a watchdog when Marino and the dug industry managed to muzzle the DEA's watchdogs.
And that, too, is the way Washington is supposed to work.
John's opinions are his own and not necessarily those of Denali Media or its employees.