From: Randice <>
Sent: Wed, 14 Dec 2005 17:56:50 -0500
Subject: Up To $16 Million In Drug Company Stock Investments Conflict 42 U.S. Senators Out of Vaccine Vote, Says FTCR

Senator Frist is one of the 'pushers' behind S. 1873.

Up To $16 Million In Drug Company Stock Investments Conflict 42 U.S. Senators Out of Vaccine Vote, Says FTCR

12/13/2005 12:46:00 PM


To: National Desk

Contact: Carmen Balber, 310-392-0522 ext. 324, or Jamie Court, 310-392-0522 ext. 327, both of Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, Web:

SANTA MONICA, Calif., Dec. 13 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Forty-two U.S. Senators hold stock in pharmaceutical companies even as they vote on legislation to benefit the drug industry, according to an analysis released today by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR).
The Senate is expected to vote this week on an eleventh-hour amendment to immunize vaccine makers for dangerous drugs. Senators should not participate
in votes from which they will financially benefit, said FTCR.

FTCR's analysis of Senate personal financial disclosures reveals that 42 senators -- 27 Republicans and 15 Democrats -- held pharmaceutical stock worth between $8.1 and $16 million in 2004. Senators earned an additional $2.5 to $7.2 million in capital gains and dividends, and two senators' spouses also earned salaries from pharmaceuticals. View the analysis at:

"Senators can't ethically support a giveaway deal for the pharmaceutical industry when their own financial interests match those of the drug companies," said Carmen Balber, consumer advocate with FTCR. "A financial interest in the outcome of legislation should conflict any politician out of the vote."

The GOP-backed amendment would grant immunity to drug companies for any vaccine or product, classified by the Bush Administration as necessary to
respond to a public health threat, when patients are harmed by dangerous drugs. The amendment is so broad that any product considered a "countermeasure," not just vaccines, could be protected.

Senate Majority Leader Frist aims to make the provision an amendment to a conference report that cannot be altered. Frist's blind trust included stock in drug companies Abbott Laboratories and Johnson & Johnson through 2004, each worth $15,000 to $50,000 when the trust was created.

In July, Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) recused himself from a vote on medical malpractice legislation that would have benefited the pharmaceutical
industry because his millions in drug company stock create the appearance of a conflict of interest.

"It's time the U.S. Senate met the Sensenbrenner standard," said Balber.

The pharmaceutical industry was the largest industry donor to Frist's National Republican Senatorial Committee, and the industry has given 64 percent to 74 percent of its federal contributions to Republicans every year for the last decade according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Congressional leaders tried to provide liability protection for the makers of the vaccine additive Thimerosal in 2002 with an amendment to Homeland Security legislation based on legislation Frist carried. Frist denied involvement, but public backlash forced the Senate to remove the immunity provision.

FTCR filed an ethics complaint with the Senate Select Ethics Committee last April charging Frist with a conflict of interest for promoting medical malpractice liability limits while retaining stock worth millions in the hospital corporation, HCA. HCA owns the nation's fourth largest malpractice insurer. Read the complaint at:

FTCR called for an SEC investigation this summer when Sen. Frist ordered the well-timed sale of his HCA stock. The Justice Department and SEC are investigating the Senator's stock sale for insider trading. Read the SEC letter at:


/© 2005 U.S. Newswire 202-347-2770/

December 14, 2005 -- 11:14 AM EDT // link)
The Hill is buzzing today over a weird incident yesterday in which Sen. Bill Frist's (R-TN) Chief of Staff Eric Ueland flipped out at a young AP reporter, Jonathan Katz, who had the temerity to ask Frist whether it was true that he had no idea how much stock he owned before he sold it off just ahead of the stock's precipitous decline.

Roll Call (sub.req.) fills us in on what happened next ...

After the off-camera dugout ended, Ueland "berated" and "bullied" the AP reporter, according to other reporters, for initiating the line of questioning. Ueland accused Katz of not understanding the issue after having been repeatedly briefed on the HCA matter. One reporter said Ueland was "demeaning and rude" to the young AP journalist. Another veteran reporter said Ueland "went over the line" in "dressing the guy down" - in front of about 25 other reporters, no less. Yet another Senate reporter said, "It was outrageous. [Ueland] was yelling at the kid. And Eric is usually a very calm and cool guy."

Reporters who attended the dugout said Frist looked rattled over questions about the HCA deal, which remains the subject of dual federal investigations, and speculated that perhaps Ueland snapped because Frist doesn't have a good defense. They also noted that Frist has largely avoided cameras since the controversy broke and has moved his dugouts - when he holds them - into the Senate chamber, where cameras and tape recorders are prohibited.

"Now everyone's talking about it. ... Now I'm wondering if he's gotten another subpoena. It makes me think there's something going on," one veteran journalist said.

Randi Airola