Attorney General Andy Beshear walked out of a committee hearing Thursday after Republican lawmakers interrogated him about a settlement the previous attorney general made with OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma.
Beshear called the questioning “grossly political” and accused Republican lawmakers of continuing fights left over from political campaigns.
“I have not seen a constitutional officer treated this way before this body before. I have not treated other legislators in a similar manner. I want to work with you,” Beshear told the committee, which includes Republican Sen. Whitney Westerfield, his rival in the 2015 election.
Sen. Danny Carroll, a Republican from Paducah, led the questioning, suggesting that Beshear played a role in the Purdue Pharma case, which was settled for $24 million by former Attorney General Jack Conway before he left office in December 2015.
At the time, Beshear worked for Stites and Harbison, which represented Purdue Pharma in the lawsuit, but he repeatedly said he had no involvement in the case.
Carroll and other Republican lawmakers grilled Beshear about Purdue Pharma for more than an hour.
“All of the sudden, a month after the 2015 election, there was a rush to get the case settled,” Carroll said.
“And instead of bringing in a nine-figure settlement for the commonwealth, the attorney general’s office settled the case for $24 million, roughly 2 percent of what former Attorney General Greg Stumbo thought was the minimum value of the case.”
After the hearing, Carroll said Gov. Matt Bevin’s office had helped him in “gathering information” for the inquiry. He also said he might issue subpoenas for Stites & Harbison, Beshear, and Conway to release records about the settlement.
Carroll said he wanted to get more information and “let the citizens decide for themselves” about Beshear’s role.
Kentucky sued Purdue Pharma in 2007, accusing the company of marketing OxyContin as a non-addictive prescription painkiller.
Former Attorney General Stumbo argued that the company’s practices created a surge of addiction across the state and claimed the case could lead to a $1 billion settlement.
Earlier this year, STAT — an affiliate of the Boston Globe — sued Purdue Pharma to unseal documents dealing with the settlement agreement, arguing that the public has a right to know the contents of settlements made by the state.
The news outlet is trying to obtain records that include a deposition of a former president of the company, marketing strategies and business strategies for the promotion of OxyContin.