- Posted June 17, 2009 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Passions over health care reform
THE FOX IS WATCHING THE HEN HOUSE!!!
It recently came to my attention, through a blog that I regularly read, that there are a number of members of congress who are on the committe that is helping to draft new health care rules, who may have a conflict of interest. Below is a copy of the letter that I wrote to the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, and the reply that I got.
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 wortha 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.”
Here is the response that I received.
“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. OGEassists 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
House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct
I hope this information proves helpful for you.
Kim H. Kaplan
Government Ethics Specialist
U.S. Office of Government Ethics
I then wrote to Senator Barbara Boxer, D-California, she is the chairperson of the Senate Select Committee on Ethics, to let her know that I find this conflict of interest unacceptable.
I also attempted to contact Representative Zoe Lofgren, D-California, chairperson of House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. I was informed that she only accepts email from her constituents in the 16th Congressional District of California.
Personally, I feel that if these people are going to chair these national committees, then they need to be sure that all US citizens have access to email for them.
I am posting this information on iReports so that anyone who is interested in getting true health care reform passed, and seeing that all citizens of this country are able to have health care coverage, can contact these offices in order to let them know that having congressmen and women, who are heavily invested in health care write the new health care reform, is not acceptable.
It is tantamount to putting the fox in charge of the henhouse, and basically
turns our congressmen and women into lobbyists for private insurance and health providers.
For anyone interested in stopping corruption in government, here is a great watchdog blog:
Please, it is time to let our government know that we are tired of the
corruption, and that we will no longer accept the status quo!
Let your voice be heard, contact these people and tell them what you think.