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Congress and the “Conflict Of Interest”

Posted by italco on June 13, 2009

Congress

Almost 30 key lawmakers helping draft landmark health-care legislation have financial holdings in the industry, totaling nearly $11 million worth of personal investments in a sector that could be dramatically reshaped by this summer’s debate.

 Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), for instance, has at least $50,000 invested in a health-care index, and  Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), a senior member of the health committee, has between $254,000 and $560,000 worth of stock holdings in major health-care companies, including Bristol-Myers Squibb and Merck.

The family of  Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee drafting that chamber’s legislation, held at least $3.2 million in more than 20 health-care companies at the end of last year.

While no congressional rules bar members from holding financial stakes in industries they regulate, some ethics experts suggest that it often creates the appearance of a conflict of interest, particularly if there is a chance that the legislation could result in a personal financial boost.

The first big congressional moment on health care comes Tuesday in the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, which will consider a liberal-leaning proposal that includes the creation of a “public plan” meant to be a government-administered alternative to private health insurance.

On that 22-member panel, at least eight senators have financial interests in the health-care industry worth a minimum of $600,000 — and potentially worth as much as $1.9 million. The investors include  Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), a senior member of the panel, who holds at least $165,000 in pharmaceutical and medical stocks, and freshman Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), who holds at least $180,000 in investments in more than 20 health-care companies. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/12/AR2009061204075.html

Let’s think about this for a minute. Our elected officials, the ones we put in congress, have “personal” holdings in companies they pass laws on and govern.

I guess I am naive, because I thought that would be illegal. Even an attorney won’t represent a client he/she has a conflict of interest in representing and a Judge will abstain from hearing a case he/she has a personal involvement with.

Yet, our elected officials not only get a handsome salary, benefits not available to us, retirement compensation for life, gifts from lobbyist, and they get to govern the rules for companies they have personal holdings in.

Makes me wonder how many received “stocks” in companies in exchange for their votes in congress. They are not required to disclose this information so it would be easy to hide!

Why are we tolerating this?

“Beat The Drum”

(go here to get info on your representatives)  https://italco.wordpress.com/politics-anti-government-corruption/ 

 

 

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19 Responses to “Congress and the “Conflict Of Interest””

  1. ctlss said

    Wow, this is unbelievable. I am dumbfounded that they would be allowed to make policy when it is obvious that they have a monetary interest in the private insurance industry. This doesn’t work, and if it was oil….oops, same thing there. We have lawyers and judges that must recuse themselves for conflict of interest, so I would think that these lawmakers should have to do the same. It is time to start complaining about this to the lawmakers who don’t have their finger in the pie, if there are any of those left. And let the ones who are profiting from the misery of others know that they need stop making policy for the industry that they have investments in. Otherwise they are nothing more than elected lobbyists.

    • ctlss said

      I wrote an email to the ethics committee. Doubt if they will do anything, but the more we pester them, the more likely they will at least take a look at the problem. Thanks, italco. I may not always comment, but I read your blog to keep up on the latest in our government.

    • italco said

      Thank you ctlss, you have always done your part in the fight against corruption…we just have to keep beating the drum until they hear us. I am sure they will hear our votes in 2010.

    • ctlss said

      Yes, italco they will. I got an answer to my email, with suggestions as to who I could contact in reference to this problem. Here is a copy of what I wrote and the response:

      Dear Ms. Schmitt,

      I am responding to your email sent to the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) today regarding your concerns about conflicts of interest amongst members of Congress. Unfortunately, OGE does not have the authority to investigate individual instances of wrongdoing and has no jurisdiction over the legislative branch of the government. OGE was established by the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 as the office responsible for setting policies aimed at the prevention of conflicts of interest in the executive branch of the Federal Government. OGE assists executive branch departments and agencies in implementing ethics rules and policies that deal with conflict-of-interest laws, post-employment restrictions, the standards of ethical conduct, and the public and confidential financial disclosure systems.

      You may be able to obtain more information regarding your concerns through the Senate Select Committee on Ethics or the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.

      Senate Select Committee on Ethics
      202-224-2981
      http://ethics.senate.gov/

      House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct
      202-225-7103
      http://ethics.house.gov/

      I hope this information proves helpful for you.

      Kim H. Kaplan
      Government Ethics Specialist
      U.S. Office of Government Ethics

      >>> “Stef Schmitt” 6/16/2009 10:43 AM >>>

      To whom it may concern:

      I am writing this because it has come to my attention that there are members of congress that are helping draft new health care policy, that are heavily invested in the private insurance industry. This is simply not an acceptable situation.
      These congressmen and women need to either get rid of the investments, or recuse themselves from serving on this committee. They simply cannot be trusted to make decisions based on what is best for the American people when their wallets may be affected.

      Almost 30 key lawmakers helping draft landmark health-care legislation have financial holdings in the industry, totaling nearly $11 million worth of personal investments in a sector that could be dramatically reshaped by this summer’s debate.

      Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), for instance, has at least $50,000 invested in a health-care index, and Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), a senior member of the health committee, has between $254,000 and $560,000 worth of stock holdings in major health-care companies, including Bristol-Myers Squibb and Merck.

      The family of Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee drafting that chamber’s legislation, held at least $3.2 million in more than 20 health-care companies at the end of last year.

      While no congressional rules bar members from holding financial stakes in industries they regulate, some ethics experts suggest that it often creates the appearance of a conflict of interest, particularly if there is a chance that the legislation could result in a personal financial boost.

      The first big congressional moment on health care comes Tuesday in the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, which will consider a liberal-leaning proposal that includes the creation of a “public plan” meant to be a government-administered alternative to private health insurance.

      On that 22-member panel, at least eight senators have financial interests in the health-care industry worth a minimum of $600,000 — and potentially worth as much as $1.9 million. The investors include Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), a senior member of the panel, who holds at least $165,000 in pharmaceutical and medical stocks, and freshman Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), who holds at least $180,000 in investments in more than 20 health-care companies. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/12/AR2009061204075.html

      Info copied from:

      https://italco.wordpress.com/2009/06/13/congress-and-the-conflict-of-interest/

      Sincerely,

      Stephanie Schmitt
      Troy, Missouri

    • italco said

      That just tickles me all over that they responded…I will do a follow up report and post this information right away….way to beat that drum girl.

  2. jruthkelly said

    I wrote Kay Hagan. Got a canned response of course!

    • italco said

      Good for you Ruth. Candid response or not, you made your voice heard by the fact that they did respond. Everyone should be speaking their opinion to their representatives. If they don’t hear our phone calls and e-mails then maybe they will listen to our votes.

  3. Geonite said

    Conflict of interest is a serious problem. Obviously these senators would have to vote on the bill but no one with any interests in health care should be on the board that makes the bill.

    You can’t prevent senators and congressmen from having a vested interest in everything so conflicts of interest will arise. The question is how do you minimize them.

    • italco said

      agreed Geo – However, I am not sure you can control it without eliminating it altogether. At the very least, they should be required to make their investments public. I would also want to see how they came into ownership of the stock (paper trail). Was it given to them by the corporation or did they actually purchase it themselves (huge difference). Another would be, if they did purchase the stock, was it purchased or sold just before a ruling on the corporation that would influence the value? That is called insider trading.

      Personally, I am completely against their ownership of interest in any company they govern. Too much corruption in congress…it needs to end.

    • Geonite said

      You can’t stop them from purchasing stock. That would be taking away a freedom and unconstitutional.

      Asking them to reveal the paper trail is tricky too. I agree that they should not be accepting gifts, but, asking them to show their stock purchases would be an invasion of privacy and unconstitutional unless you have good reason to think they received an illegal gift and brought it before a judge who granted you permission to ask for the evidence.

    • italco said

      Not sure that would apply to an elected offical…be interesting to find out the legality of it. I am not saying they can’t invest in the stock market. What I am saying is, they shouldn’t be allowed to have holdings in specific companies that are affected by their influence in congress. This should be seen as insider trading and is illegal. These people “one the board” of reforming laws that directly effect the value of their personal holdings… is outragious.

  4. Funny, I just came from Nonnie’s post on the new tobacco legislation and it was noted that these two senators voted against it! Hmmmmm….very interesting now that we see they are so invested in healthcare companies.

    • italco said

      Funny how all the dots start to connect…at least now it will be transparent as to why the health care program doesn’t pass. They will suffer the consequences of their actions or inactions when there re-election bid comes up. We can see what they are doing now. Before having this blog, they were able to hide…now we can all communicate with each other and expose what they are doing.

  5. jruthkelly said

    Shaking my head here. I don’t get how anyone can justify such obvious duplicity. Time to write Kay Hagan…

  6. Auntiebjw said

    I wrote my Congressman yesterday — Republican — received a very prejudicial response. The fight is on.

    Wrote one of my Senators today (both are Democrats) — will see if I get a response and what it will be.

    You’re spot on about the conflicts of interest. Those politicians should remove themselves from voting on health care reform.
    And, if I understand it correctly, there are two Rep. and two Dem., so the exclusions would be even.

    • italco said

      Exactly Auntie – would a Judge render a verdict if the Judge would personally benefit from the ruling? By all rights these law makers and policy makers should abstain from any decision that could beneifit them personally. This goes against every code of conduct I have been taught throughout my career.

    • italco said

      feel free to post their responses here…this is where we “beat the drum” against unethical behavior of our government.

  7. italco said

    I am sure this has been going on for centuries. I am very much appauld.

    I want to fire them all…2010 is comming up…they had better come up with some kind of oversight on themselves.

    Is it wonder our country is in such a financial mess?….

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