Archives for April 2017

NRCC Slams Kyrsten Sinema and Tom O’Halleran In Latest Political Ad

NRCC Releases New Web Video Targeting Arizona Democrats For Accepting Money From Alleged Child Sex Trafficking Scheme

The National Republican Congressional Committee released a web video titled “Caught Red Handed” which targets Arizona Democrats Kyrsten Sinema and Tom O’Halleran for accepting thousands in campaign donations from executives accused of facilitating child sex trafficking.

“Kyrsten Sinema and Tom O’Halleran should be ashamed of themselves,” said NRCC Spokesman Jack Pandol.

“They’ve let their desperation to win re-election cloud their moral judgment. Kyrsten and Tom’s decision to knowingly take this tainted money speaks volumes about their twisted priorities as Arizona’s least principled elected officials.”

‘School Choice Matters’ Ad Indicates Education To Be Top Issue In 2018

If you’re a Sunday Square Off viewer, you probably saw this political “thank you” ad air several times during the show. There was no “paid for” disclaimer but the ad was produced by the American Federation for Children.

The ad is airing to support and thank Governor Doug Ducey and the Arizona Legislature for passing and signing Senator Debbie Lesko’s Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) legislation. The law now expands school choice (although capped) throughout Arizona.

During final debate, opponents (primarily the Arizona Education Association) whipped up cataclysmic hysteria over the bill. Casual observers would have thought Arizona public education was about to be nuked into oblivion.

School choice advocates were probably caught off guard by the rapid rabid response.

Thus, the American Federation for Children realizing the need to recover the narrative and refocus the debate on children and parental choice, injected itself into the debate.

Anyone watching the warmup for Arizona’s 2018 election cycle can see that next year’s top political issue will be education.

And at the center of that debate, stand Arizona teachers.

Get ready. Every political candidate will position himself/herself as an advocate and “friend of teachers.”

The data proves that Arizona teachers deserve to paid more and if that means unclogging the pipes and removing the administrative clogs to get more money into the classroom, then so be it.

As the Arizona Legislature wraps up the budget and 2017 session, Governor Ducey and lawmakers are poised at an advantage in controlling the message heading into 2018. How they address direct delivery of tax dollars into the classroom, handing out teacher raises and elevating respect for the teaching profession will establish the battlefield for next year’s election.

Republicans have the opportunity to own and make 2018 the “Year of the Teacher.” If they seize the day, Arizona taxpayers, parents, teachers and children will win.

 

Maricopa County GOP Chair Congratulates New AZGOP Executive Team

Chris HerringI join in with Govenor Ducey and Republican’s around the state in congratulating the new AZGOP executive team of Matthew Kenney and Torunn Sinclair.  We have the important task of ensuring Arizona remains a bastion of conservatism in 2018 and that we do all we can to help get Republicans elected. I know the new team shares this singular focus.

When seeking the office of Chairman of the Maricopa County Republican Party I made a commitment to end factional fighting between the county and state party, as far as it was in my power to do so. I believe this new team understands the importance of working hand in hand as one Republican Party.

I look forward to working with the new team to build a stronger party, and to ensure that all of our candidates in Maricopa County are given the tools they need to run successful campaigns, that all of our precinct committeemen are fully equipped to work for candidates of their choice, and that we ensure a path to victory for all Republicans in the general election.

Chairman Herring
Maricopa County Republicans

 

Kenney And Sinclair Are Rising Stars

By Ella Gent

Matthew Kenney

Matthew Kenney

Yesterday morning, Chairman Jonathan Lines announced a pair of home run hires when he announced that Matt Kenney was joining the AZ GOP as the Executive Director, and Torunn Sinclair was coming aboard as Communications Director.

Kenney is a rising star in Arizona politics, having logged successful stints with the Arizona GOP, Concerned Veterans for America, and Arizona Grassroots Action PAC, where he directed grassroots strategy and get out the vote activities in the primary and general elections. He’s an Arizona native, a graduate of ASU and ASU law school…oh yeah, and he is a highly decorated Army Ranger who received a Bronze Star for his service in defense of our freedom in Iraq. He is a man of high character and unquestioned integrity.

He’s the Democrats worst nightmare.

Torunn Sinclair

Torunn Sinclair

Torunn Sinclair has completed successful stints with Governor Ducey’s first gubernatorial campaign, the successful Yes on 123 campaign, spearheaded social media strategy in Governor Ducey’s official office, and more recently served as Communications Manager with the Arizona Commerce Authority. She is a highly respected communicator who will relentlessly work to promote GOP candidates and ideals. And Democrat candidates would be wise to stay out of her line of fire.

As we said, two absolute home run picks for Chairman Lines. But don’t just take our word for it. Look at some of the folks who have weighed in with their support:

Doug Ducey 

@dougducey

Two great hires by Chairman @JWLines to help lead @AZGOP@MattKenneyUSA & @TorunnSinclairare All Stars. The Party is in good hands.

J.D. Mesnard 

@JDMesnard

Congrats to @AZGOP Chairman @JWLines for snagging @MattKenneyUSA & @TorunnSinclair. Both are extremely capable political pros.

Maricopa County YR’s  @MaricopaCountYR

10h

Congrats @MattKenneyUSA for being selected as the next Executive Director for the @AZGOP!#TurnAll15Red

More support came in throughout the day from groups like the Arizona College Republicans, the Arizona Federation of Republican Women, legislators, activists and party leaders. The list goes on and on.

Now, we know what happens next. Over the next few days, a select few will try to tarnish the stellar reputations of these two operatives with malicious gossip, lies and attacks. They will aim their bibles at Chairman Lines for hiring these two qualified individuals. In particular, they will go after Kenney for political work he did in last year’s US Senate primary. As usual, they will traffic in #fakenews and attempt to besmirch the reputation of an American hero. The angry octogenarians will be gratuitous and cruel.

Already, there are anonymous cowards attacking Matthew — a decorated combat veteran — online.

So here at Sonoran Alliance we have a better idea. Instead of taking the time to read and engage in those attacks, have a look at what some of Kenney’s fellow soldiers, who served by his side on the battlefield, have to say about his skills as a leader, his patriotism, and his courage under fire.

Fernando Gonzalez, MSG Infantry, US Forces Afghanistan

@FGonzz2102

“CPT (Ret.) Matthew Kenney and I witnessed catastrophic events that people only see in movies and every time he portrayed the Army Values: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage. The time that we spent together as Platoon Leader and Platoon Sergeant made us inseparable and I gained a brother that will there for me at a moment’s notice.”

Alex Hughes, CPT, Field Artillery, 1st Cavalry Division

@robotcowboyatx

“I had the distinct privilege of serving with Matt in Mosul, Iraq. He was an inspirational leader, always leading from the front and by example, never asking the Soldiers under his command to do anything he wouldn’t do himself. Matt earned the respect of his Soldiers, leaders, and peers by always going above and beyond the call of duty and finding ways to effectively and creatively accomplish the mission. In some of the darker moments of our deployment—moments when lesser men would have shrunk from the challenge—Matt consistently and selflessly thrust himself into the thick of the action without regard to his personal comfort or safety. I am 100% confident the Arizona Republican Party is in good hands with Matt at the helm and look forward to seeing what he accomplishes next.”

Max Palumbo, CPT, Infantry, 75th Ranger Regiment

As Executive Director of the AZ Republican party, I am confident Matt Kenney has the necessary leadership capabilities for the position because he has been tried and tested in combat leadership roles. Having served with Matt, I know he brings dedication and desire to improve any organization he serves with and is committed to the betterment of all members of the organization. “

Jason Davis, MAJ, Infantry, 75th Ranger Regiment

“It has always been a pleasure working with Matt. While we as officers are inherent leaders, Matt has always proven to be a leader among his peers as well. I have had the pleasure of working with him on complex Company and Battalion operations and have seen firsthand his ability to execute them flawlessly. The Army sorely misses him but I know that whatever he does, he does so with the utmost patriotism and dedication to our great country.”

Marcus Millen, CPT, Infantry, 10th Mountain Division

“Working with Matt, it becomes immediately apparent how talented he is. His superb leadership skills, painstaking attention to detail, and ability to plan complex operations with routine ease make him the consummate professional. His flawless character and compassion for Soldiers make him a truly admirable person.“

Cody Grimm, CPT, Infantry, 101st Airborne Division

“First and foremost, Matt Kenney is a true warrior and leader.  He is also a long-time friend and will be my Ranger buddy for life. In knowing Matt over the course of the last decade, he has always impressed me as a Soldier and in life.  I know him as a hell of a leader and an even better father and husband.   I would fight to serve alongside this fine gentleman in any capacity in the future. I’m proud to say I know him and am not surprised to see his selection to be the Executive Director of the Republican Party in Arizona.”

Jason Bates, CPT, IN, 1st Cavalry Division

“Throughout combat operations in 2009, I had the distinct honor of serving with Matthew Kenney. As thePSD platoon leader for 3/8 CAV, I led hundreds of patrols into the area of operations. It was always refreshing to see Kenny’s friendly face when we visited his combat outpost amid the ruins of Mosul. He was a principled warrior, guided by the strength of his convictions and an incorruptible integrity. These qualities, along with his sharp wit, made him an exemplar to the soldiers of Assassin Company. It makes me exceedingly proud to see my brother in arms recognized with this level of responsibility.”

Defending the Indefensible

By Debi Vandenboom

I have spent the last fifteen plus years fighting for the cause of life. I have read books and articles from every side of the debate. I’ve watched interviews, documentaries, exposes and undercover investigations. I have spoken with, counseled, and come alongside girls who were pregnant and scared, young mothers trying to find their way, as well as women who deeply regretted their decision to abort. I have spent many hours sitting in legislative proceedings supporting pro-life legislation. And I have diligently prayed for hearts and minds to change.

In all of those years of experience, one of the things which never ceases to amaze me is the depths to which abortion advocates will go to defend the indefensible. They have developed a science out of using carefully crafted talking points, data manipulation and outright lies to defend “women’s health”, aka abortion. I have heard it so often that I can spot the spin within seconds of hearing or reading someone’s words. Abortion advocates fight for the “right” of a woman (or young girl at literally ANY child bearing age) to have access to abortion without notifying her parents if she’s a minor, without informed consent of the procedure or its risks, without meeting the doctor ahead of time, for any reason, at any stage of gestation, using the grisliest procedures, and preferably paid for with taxpayer dollars. If you dare to try to place even the tiniest, most reasonable restriction on abortion, then you clearly must be anti-woman and hate the poor. No exaggeration. I’ve heard it. I’ve seen it. It’s ugly.

But, it doesn’t end there. In order to defend the indefensible, abortion advocates must also take horrific stands on issues that don’t directly relate to women’s access to abortion. One of these is the issue of fetal homicide. This really came to light back in 2003 when Laci Peterson and her unborn son were murdered in California. There was much discussion about whether baby Conner had or had not been born prior to his demise. My question is, why should it matter? Laci Peterson was 8 months pregnant. Whether the baby died in utero, or post birth, he still died. And, his death was clearly, directly connected to his mother’s murder. However, pro-abortion groups like NARAL and NOW advocated to keep Scott Peterson from being charged with two murders. Despite the fact that pro-abortion organizations claim to support the choice of women who carry “wanted” babies, that support only goes so far. They could not risk having such a high profile case bring to light that an unborn baby is in fact alive and can in fact be murdered.

This happens in case after case. Tragically, murder is one of the top causes, sometimes listed as the number one cause, of death for pregnant women. According to WebMd, murder accounts for 20% of the deaths of pregnant women, as compared to 6% of the deaths of nonpregnant women. You might think that pro-abortion groups full of self-proclaimed feminists who supposedly champion women’s rights, would speak out against such atrocities. You would be wrong. If a baby in utero can legally be recognized as a fully alive human being capable of being murdered, it casts a giant shadow on the entire issue of abortion. Therefore, abortion groups are more interested in protecting abortion, and their own profit margin, than they are in actually protecting and advocating for women.

Another area where abortion advocates justify especially reprehensible acts concerns babies who “accidentally” survive an abortion attempt. It happens more often than you might think. When a child survives an abortion procedure at a clinic, he or she may simply be discarded in a bin or left to die on a metal table with no medical attention whatsoever. In Arizona, it has been the law since 1975 for babies who were born alive to receive care, and it has been federal law since the “Born Alive Infant Protection Act” of 2002. Yet we continue to hear about babies being left to die with no care at all. For example, recently in Arizona, a baby girl was born alive after an unsuccessful abortion at 22 weeks, and was left to die alone on a steel table with no medical care or assistance. She suffered alone for nearly an hour and a half before finally passing. This is heartbreaking. It only takes a simple Google search to see that this is not an isolated incident. You can find stories across the country of babies surviving abortion.

One would think that signs of life such as a heartbeat, gasps of breath, or umbilical cord pulsation would be enough to cause someone with medical training to jump into action without being forced to do so. Unfortunately it is not. So, at the federal level, legislation was introduced this session which would strengthen protection for abortion survivors. In Arizona, Governor Ducey just signed SB1367 into law which further clarifies the state’s existing born alive law. During and after this bill’s passage, the pro-abortion nonsense abounded in the newspaper, on social media, and in legislative hearings. Among the most incredulous things I personally heard was that it was “inhumane” to provide “intrusive” medical care to a baby who would not survive anyway. Inhumane? As opposed to treating a living baby like discarded medical waste? A baby may be considered too young to survive at a certain gestational age, until one defeats the odds and does survive. I’ve personally met 2 young women who were so tiny and premature at birth that their parents were given no hope of survival. They are now 20 and 21 years old. Life has a tendency to defy all odds. And even if that baby truly cannot survive, she still deserves to be treated as a human being and at least given basic care, rather than being left untreated in a steel medical bin. But, here lies the problem for Planned Parenthood and other radical abortion advocates. Once an abortion has failed and you are dealing with a living breathing infant, then abortion should no longer be relevant. Born alive laws have absolutely nothing to do with abortion access. However, if a baby at 20 weeks, or 22 weeks, is a human being in need of medical care, then what is an in utero fetus at 20 weeks or 22 weeks? In almost every state, including Arizona, abortion is legal up to 24 weeks, and in some states even further. A living breathing abortion survivor throws a giant monkey wrench in to the “clump of cells” sales pitch. So again, in order to protect abortion and to protect their bottom line, abortion advocates will defend the truly indefensible. Abortion, at it’s most fundamental level is inexcusable and horrific. We have literally made an industry out of destroying life at its most vulnerable stages. So, abortion advocates must attempt to justify abortion at its most extreme levels, such as fighting fetal homicide rulings or born alive protections, in order to be able to justify it at all. If they don’t, the whole house of cards will come tumbling down around them. That is why it is important to shine a light on some of the most horrific aspects of the abortion argument. We can’t be squeamish. We must continue to shine light into this darkness, until the last card falls.

New Survey: More Than 60% of Voters Oppose Proposed Border Adjustment Tax

Americans for Affordable Products

Arizona Businesses and Consumers Urge Arizona Delegation to Oppose Tax on Imports

Phoenix, AZ – Americans want tax reform but are deeply opposed to a proposed Border Adjustment Tax (BAT), according to a new national survey released today by Americans for Affordable Products.  A strong majority (63%) of voters oppose the border adjustment tax, including 46% of voters who strongly oppose this proposed tax.  Key constituencies showed particularly strong opposition to the proposal including women (70%) and senior citizens (63%). The Tarrance Group fielded the survey of 800 likely voters from April 2-5, just ahead of the congressional spring recess.

“This is a wake-up call for congress to follow the lead of our two great Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake and oppose the BAT,” said Michelle Ahlmer of the Arizona Retailers Association.  “Americans want our broken tax code fixed, but they are deeply opposed to paying more for everyday necessities just so several large multinational corporations can operate tax free and boost their already deep profits.  As the rest of our delegation returns home for spring recess, they can expect to hear wide opposition to the border tax from Arizona businesses and consumers.”

The survey finds that opposition to the BAT’s 20% tax on goods and products imported in the U.S. sharply increases when voters learned of the potential economic impact it could have on them.  More than 70% are less likely to support the BAT when they learn it could increase costs for food and clothing by $1700, gas by as much as $.50 per gallon, and car payments by $100 per month.  76% are less likely to support the BAT when learning of the increased price in medicine and prescription drugs.  The costs of the BAT to businesses would lead to job losses and unemployment across multiple business sectors.  73% of voters are less likely to support it when they learn that it could increase the unemployment rate.

The reality is setting in for many that the controversial Border Adjustment Tax is a “poison pill” to enacting the pro-growth, comprehensive tax reform that President Donald Trump is calling for, and American consumers and job creators badly need. Opposition to the Border Adjustment Tax is widespread among Senate and House lawmakers, and more importantly among voters.  Fortunately, both Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake have expressed their concerns over the BAT.

Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) recently said the following on the BAT: “Cheaper inputs mean lower production costs for U.S.-based businesses, which in turn allows those companies to expand production and to reduce prices. What will happen if we placed a 20 percent tax on all imports?”  He went to say of tax reform, “We ought to make sure that the middle class isn’t in the losing column.”

To view a summation of the survey data, click here.

To obtain a full list of the AAP coalition, click here.

Americans for Affordable Products is a coalition of job creators, entrepreneurs, business leaders and consumers united against higher prices on everyday necessities. To learn more, please visit: www.KeepAmericaAffordable.com.

BOOM! Arizona lawmakers pass broad ESA expansion

by Matthew Ladner

Arizona lawmakers passed legislation tonight that will phase in near universal eligibility for ESA program. This will start with public school students in kindergarten and 1st grade, 6th grade and 9th grade in 2017-18, and then add grades from the on ramps (K,1,2 and 6,7 and 9-10 in year 2 and the next year K,1,2,3 and 6,7,8,9,10,11). The bill will also increase academic transparency and improve administration of the program.

Governor Doug Ducey’s stalwart support of expanding options proved crucial to this victory. Huge kudos to the bill sponsor Senator Lesko and Rep. Allen as well as the members who took a tough vote in the face of determined opposition. Groups including the American Federation for Children, Americans for Prosperity Arizona, the Arizona Catholic Conference, the Arizona Chamber, the Center for Arizona Policy, Ed Choice, Excel in Ed and the Goldwater Institute all made vital contributions. Senator Worsley also deserves recognition as someone who played the role of honest broker in crafting a compromise that a winning coalition in each chamber supported. We’d all like to live in a world where there was no need to compromise, but that world is not the one we find ourselves in.

The Census Bureau recently announced that Maricopa County (Phoenix metro) as the fastest growing county in the nation-nudging out the Houston area. Enrollment growth is firing up again and the expanded ESA will give parents a broadening array of private educational choices to consider in what is already a robust public choice market. ESAs are an unfolding experiment in liberty, and future legislatures will debate further refinements and improvements, but this is the first big private choice victory of 2017, so…

Arizona Republic skips out on Obama-inconvenient story once again

Keeping up a long tradition, The Arizona Republic again is doing what it can to play good-puppy with the national media, this time joining most of them in avoiding the Susan Rice Story as if it had been tongue-washed by Donald Trump.

At least the ideological ringleader New York Times wrote something on Monday. The Arizona newspaper of record (of fun, new drink concoctions at Tempe bars!) has gone full Don Lemon/CNN on the story. It doesn’t exist on the Republic’s pages, thus opening the door for cartoonist Steve Benson to render another howlingly humorless cartoon about a Donald Trump story his publication refuses to cover.

At least the Times gave it something more than the A-16, middle-of-dull-story treatment today. President Trump said some stuff that was sufficiently over the top for Times reporter Maggie Haberman (who reportedly sat on the original Rice story for at least two days) to, yes, turn it into another “Crazy Trump Cites No Evidence” story. She quotes Rice declaring her innocence and, well, that’s that then, isn’t it?

The rigid, determined lack of curiosity on the part of these reporters is the real stunner here. Dare I say it? Sad!

It’s not like there isn’t evidence for Haberman to sift through if she was so inclined. Which she clearly is not.

Two weeks ago, Rice said “I know nothing about this” when asked about Devin Nunes’ allegation that Trump campaign aides and transition-team members may have been swept up in surveillance by U.S. spy agencies.

Yet in her interview Tuesday with Andrea Mitchell (for whom the phrase “follow-up question” put to a sympathetic subject constitutes a gross impertinence), Rice changed that line completely, posturing as an “investigator” who just had to get to the facts behind… President-elect Trump’s foreign-policy plans. And here I thought the media were consumed with liars of late. Only certain ones, apparently.

The Obamas have done everything to advertise their willingness to abuse surveillance powers, short of posting a neon-sign declaring “Get Yer Hot Russia-Trump Tips Here!”

Wait a minute. They were telling people to “Get yer hot Russia-Trump tips here!

For no apparent reason, President Obama loosened the rules on sharing surveillance intel a week before he left office, rendering the profuse leaks we have seen these last five months a given. His administration did almost exactly this same thing as what Rice is accused of doing now when they snooped on members of Congress during the Iran nuke negotiations.

There really is no professional explanation for this lack of curiosity beyond abject Trump-hate. Haberman is the one who is supposed to be digging up evidence, not the one whining that Trump isn’t serving any up to her.

Do you suppose anyone is ever going to ask Susan Rice what the national-security imperative was for focusing a months-long investigation on Trump communications? Or why none of the intel reports on Trump team activities that Nunes saw had anything to do with Russia? What was Inspector Rice inspecting, then?

Don’t hold your breath for it.

(Wild guess: Now that Haberman and the Times have broken ground with a story that turns the Susan Rice-abuse-of-power story into another Mad Hare Trump story, that’s something we may see in tomorrow’s home-town paper.)

 

 

 

Wendy Rogers: Let’s take care of our known problems

I stand with President Trump to repeal Obamacare

America must start to repair its healthcare system. The designers of Obamacare ultimately wanted a single payer system. It doesn’t work; case in point: the broken Veterans Administration (VA) system, which my husband and I experience first-hand.

Wendy Rogers & Donald TrumpAs far as being a conservative goes, I’m as conservative as they come. I am ardently pro-life as a mother and grandmother, strong on national defense as a retired career Air Force lieutenant colonel and one of America’s first military women pilots, and I want the government out of my mess kit because I’m a tireless but successful 20-year small business owner.

Academically and professionally, I practiced as clinical social worker in the military mental health system before I trained to be a jet pilot. I cannot bear to see families continue to be plagued by rising premiums and limited choices in healthcare, especially in Arizona where premiums have climbed 116%.

I knocked on thousands of doors where AZ-1 voters told me something must be done to fix the current healthcare mess. I’m not in Washington, but I read the news. Last weekend, my mid-20s-aged kids asked me what I thought. You know what I told them?

I said, “Democracy is messy. We cannot agree a lot of the time, but that’s what the Founders envisioned. Arm-wrestling, passion, patriotism, and compromise. If we had more small business owners and military veterans working this in Congress, we’d get more done. I believe in the president’s agenda overall. Congress needs to get onboard to repeal and replace Obamacare, reform our tax code, repeal onerous regulations, and foster energy independence. Congress needs to help drain the swamp, not add to it.

And I’ll tell you something else. I met the president way back in December 2015 when I introduced him to the crowd in Mesa AZ as the representative military veteran in strong support. I’ve read his books. I’m close to some who work in the administration. As my commander-in-chief, I trust President Trump to have my back. More of us in the military trust this president than any other in a very long time. That should tell you something. A new healthcare law must wend its way through Senate rules and administrative action before we can arrive at a better system. I trust President Trump to steer that course for the good of our country.

Conservatives and citizens all must realize that standing on principle is all well and good, but it cannot be worth falling on one’s sword if we end up with nothing.

These challenges are fixable. We’re Americans. We accomplish great things. Let’s take care of our known problems, so we’re better prepared to thwart the unknowns when they crop up like North Korea’s ICBMs, ISIS infiltrating our own country, or opioids ravaging our families.

Let’s get it DONE.

Air Force (ret) Lt Col Wendy Rogers’s home is in Flagstaff. She and her husband own and operate their own home inspection business across Pinal, Maricopa, Yavapai, and Coconino counties. She is a current pilot who flies her own aircraft, Search and Rescue member of Civil Air Patrol, HAM radio operator, and avid national and statewide traveler. She and her husband have two children and three grandchildren. She was one of the Air Force’s first women pilots and ran for Congress in AZ-1 in 2016.

Seth Leibsohn: Politicizing and Misunderstanding the Opioid Crisis

By Seth Leibsohn

The nation’s opioid crisis is real and it is serious. As Christopher Caldwell recently pointed out, “those who call the word ‘carnage’ an irresponsible exaggeration are wrong.” And so, too, are those playing politics with the crisis. Even beyond the politicization—or, perhaps, because of it—there is still a great deal of misunderstanding as to what is driving this crisis.

As for the first problem, the politics: Senator Claire McCaskill (D., MO) has announced that she is initiating an investigation of several opioid manufacturers, and is requesting “reams of information” from them. But note the one manufacturer she did not target and from which she did not request information—Mallinckrodt. Mallinckrodt, after all, is headquartered in Missouri, her own state. Odd, that. And it’s not as if Mallinckrodt is a bit player in the manufacture and sales of opioid drugs. Indeed, “it is one of the nation’s largest” producers, responsible for nearly 20 percent of the market share of opioid prescriptions. The companies McCaskill has targeted are responsible for a total market share of 5.25 percent combined. Odd, that. If she were serious about investigating pharmaceutical companies, she most certainly would be investigating the one based in her own home state which also happens to be the one responsible for most opioid sales in America.

But all of this is not even the beginning of the beginning in addressing America’s opioid crisis. For when political leaders like Senator McCaskill are not playing politics with the issue, they are too often misunderstanding it. Some of that is not their fault.

Part of the problem in addressing the opioid crisis is that the terminology can be confusing or misleading. People hear “opioid” or “prescription opioid” or “fentanyl” and begin to lump the problems all together as a crisis driven by legitimately prescribed drugs. No doubt, that is a part of the problem, but it is nowhere near the biggest part of it. Take a look at the best statistics available (taken from the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the CDC):

  • In 2015, there were 33,091 opioid overdose deaths.
  • Heroin deaths constituted 12,990 of those deaths.
  • Synthetic opioids (mostly illegal fentanyl) constitute another 9,580 deaths.

Because opioid deaths usually involve the use of more than one drug, percentages and raw numbers will not neatly add up to 100% or the 33,091 deaths. As the White House Website puts it: “A portion of the overdose deaths involved both illicit opioids and prescription opioids.” But what we can see from the above is that over 68 percent of the problem is from the use of illegal drugs.  Or, as the CDC put it in December of 2016: “[T]he increase in opioid overdose death rates is driven in large part by illicit opioids, like heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a synthetic opioid.”

As for the prescribed opioids, the majority of overdose deaths from those come from the diversion and illegal distribution of them. As the CDC notes: “Most people who abuse prescription opioids get them for free from a friend or relative.” The people “at highest risk of overdose” “get opioids using their own prescriptions (27 percent), from friends or relatives for free (26 percent), buying from friends or relatives (23 percent), or buying from a drug dealer (15 percent).” Thus, for the population that overdoses from opioid prescriptions, 64 percent abuse them from a diverted or illegal source. In other words, the abuse of opioid prescriptions that leads to overdose deaths involving a patient acquiring a legal prescription and misusing that prescription on himself is less than 30 percent of the prescription problem and constitutes about 15 percent of the overall opioid overdose problem.

This is backed up, as well, by the most recent testimony of the Director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the CDC, Dr. Debra Houry. Just last month, she testified to Congress stating,

Although prescription opioids were driving the increase in overdose deaths for many years, more recently, the large increase in overdose deaths has been due mainly to increases in heroin and synthetic opioid (other than methadone) overdose deaths, not prescription opioids. Importantly, the available data indicate these increases are largely due to illicitly manufactured fentanyl.

Again, the main driver of our current crisis is the use and abuse of illegal drugs, not legally prescribed drugs. Indeed, there is some common sense to this. Almost anyone who has had a surgical procedure was likely given a legal opioid like fentanyl. As one prominent anesthesiologist recently wrote: “To an anesthesiologist, fentanyl is as familiar as a Philips screwdriver is to a carpenter; it is an indispensable tool in my toolbox. It is the most commonly used painkiller during surgery. If you’ve had surgery, it is more likely than not that you have had fentanyl.” And yet the vast majority of people who have had surgical procedures do not have substance abuse or opioid abuse problems.

Yes, there is a popular reverse gateway theory regarding heroin abuse—i.e., that high percentages of heroin users started by abusing prescription opioid drugs. But that is misleading and, indeed, looks at the problem from the wrong direction.

As Dr. Robert DuPont from the Institute for Behavior and Health has put it:

[W]hile 80% of heroin users used a prescription opioid before they first used heroin, the vast majority, over 96%, of people who have used a prescription opioid non-medically [i.e., illegally] have not transitioned to using heroin.  Five years after the initial nonmedical use of a prescription opioid, only 3.6% ever used any heroin.  Among prescription opiate users, the people most vulnerable to switching to heroin are those who are also abusers of other drugs including alcohol.

In other words, the vast majority of prescription opioid patients do not transition to the use of an illegal drug like heroin.

Other data bear this out, as well. For example, according to an important article in the January 2016 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, it was found that “[A]lthough the majority of current heroin users report having used prescription opioids non-medically before they initiated heroin use, heroin use among people who use prescription opioids for non-medical reasons is rare, and the transition to heroin use appears to occur at a low rate.”

The numbers and factors detailed here are not meant to diminish or emphasize any serious or particular effort to address the variety of opioid issues contributing to the present crisis but, rather, to detail the full picture of the problem in sharp relief. Playing politics with this crisis will get us nowhere and waste a lot of time, energy, and resources. Public confusion about what is leading the epidemic and behind the majority of cases driving the crisis is another problem altogether, made worse by playing politics with it. It is time, past time, to get serious about this issue and take it on in a serious manner.

There are a great many efforts aimed at dealing with pill mills and irresponsible and rogue sales of prescription opioids. That is all to the good. But those efforts will not solve the problem or even get to the roots of the largest parts of it. A responsible and successful prevention campaign is needed and must be combined with serious drug education policies and messages along with a greater border and law enforcement effort. For concerned Americans, first and foremost, it is our duty to become educated about the issue.

Seth Leibsohn is a Contributing Editor to American Greatness and is the host of The Seth & Chris Show, heard nightly on 960am/KKNT in Phoenix. You can connect with Seth on Twitter: @SethLeibsohn