October 5, 2022

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Rep. Katie Porter describes how her famous whiteboard became ‘a teaching tool’

California representative Katie Porter (D-CA) has gone viral for her tough questions during congressional hearings and utilization of a whiteboard.

According to Porter, the idea was inspired by her teaching days.

“I was a teacher before I ran for Congress,” she said in a Yahoo Finance Presents interview (video above). “I spent a lot of years standing in front of a whiteboard. And when you have a student who can’t quite get to the answer, when you have someone who didn’t do their homework, you turn to the whiteboard to help make it more clear.”

One of the first times she came armed with her whiteboard was when she questioned then-Wells Fargo CEO Timothy Sloan about the bank’s ongoing fraud scandals. Not long after her questioning, Sloan stepped down from his role as chief executive.

Rep. Porter questions a pharma executive about the price of Revlimid.

Rep. Porter questions a pharma executive about the price of Revlimid.

Her whiteboard was also used when she questioned the CEO of AmGen, a pharmaceutical company, about how much money was spent on drug research and development (R&D) versus stock buybacks, executive compensation, and political lobbying.

When former Celgene CEO Mark Alles testified before the House Oversight Committee about how his company had tripled the price of a cancer drug, Revlimid, Porter did not shy away from breaking down the data.

She noted the steady rise in the cost of one pill of the drug from 2005 to 2020 as it jumped from $215 to $764. At another point during her questioning, she wrote “$13 million” on the whiteboard and asked Alles if he knew what that amount referred to. It was his total salary in 2017, which grew larger after the company increased the price of Revlimid.

“Isn’t that right, Mr. Alles?” Porter said at the time. “If you hadn’t increased the price … you wouldn’t have gotten your bonus.”

While the whiteboard has been helpful for Porter in conveying her questions, she also said it’s a way for her constituents to understand what’s actually going on.

“I think about the whiteboard as a teaching tool,” Porter said. “The American people are owed answers from their government, and the whiteboard is a way to help make it easier for everyday people to understand what Washington is getting done or not getting done to solve their problems.”

Adriana Belmonte is a reporter and editor covering politics and health care policy for Yahoo Finance. You can follow her on Twitter @adrianambells and reach her at [email protected]

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