In the first Democratic debate of the presidential season, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders counted the pharmaceutical industry and Wall Street as the enemies he was "most proud of."
On Thursday, the candidate showed supporters and enemies alike that he wasn't kidding around, rejecting a $2,700 donation, the maximum legal individual contribution, from Martin Shkreli. Shkreli, the hedge funder turned pharmaceutical CEO, became a Democratic bête noire after his company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, hiked the price of the lifesaving drug Daraprim by more than 5,000%.
Instead of returning the money to Shkreli, Stat first reported, the Sanders campaign announced that it would donate it to Whitman-Walker Health in Washington. "We are not keeping the money from this poster boy for drug company greed," campaign spokesman Michael Briggs told Stat.
After an avalanche of public pressure, Shkreli had promised to lower the price of Daraprim from $750 a pill. But as Friday, he has still not done so.
"We are not keeping the money from this poster boy for drug company greed,"
The donation was more than a little odd given Sander's open hostility to the pharmaceutical CEO. In addition to this public blasting on Twitter, the Senate's only Democratic Socialist is also spearheading a federal investigation into Shkreli's company.
For his part, Shkreli said that he made the donation in an attempt to secure an audience with the candidate to discuss the state of the pharmaceutical market. That meeting request was rejected.
Shkreli said he actually agreed with a number of Sanders' polices and was particularly struck by the senator's support of the U.S. bombing in Kosovo during the 1990s. Taking to Twitter, Shkreli — an ethnic Albanian — said it was that support which prompted his endorsement.
After coming onto the scene with his Daraprim price hike, Shkreli has continued to circulate around the Internet. In a widely read exclusive for Mic, Eve Peyser detailed her encounter with CEO on Tinder.
Interest in Shkreli also led to the dredging up of a seedy falling-out between him and Timothy Pierotti, who worked at Shkreli's previous biotech company, Retrophin. The confrontation became so ugly that Pierotti reported in a sworn affidavit that Shkreli repeatedly harassed his family and ultimately called his wife to tell her that "I hope to see you and your four children homeless and will do whatever I can to assure this."
Shkreli was later ousted by Retrophin, who called him "a paradigm of a faithless servant."