Key health care senators have industry ties

Senator Chris Dodd, among other senators involved in upcoming health care legislation, have family ties or financial investments in the industry they are meant to reform.

By , The Associated Press

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    Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., and his wife, Jackie Clegg Dodd, talk with reporters during a news conference at Dodd's office in Hartford, Conn, on Feb 2, 2009.
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Influential senators working to overhaul the nation's health care system have investments and family ties with some of the biggest names in the industry. The wife of Sen. Chris Dodd, the lawmaker in charge of writing the Senate's bill, sits on the boards of four health care companies.

Members of both parties have industry connections, including Democrats Jay Rockefeller and Tom Harkin, in addition to Dodd, and Republicans Tom Coburn, Judd Gregg, John Kyl and Orrin Hatch, financial reports showed Friday.

Jackie Clegg Dodd, wife of the Connecticut Democrat, is on the boards of Javelin Pharmaceuticals Inc., Cardiome Pharma Corp., Brookdale Senior Living and Pear Tree Pharmaceuticals.

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Dodd is filling in for ailing Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which will soon start work on a health care bill.

Other publicly available documents show Mrs. Dodd last year was one of the most highly compensated non-employee members of the Javelin Pharmaceuticals Inc. board, on which she has served since 2004. She earned $32,000 in fees and $109,587 in stock option awards last year, according to the company's SEC filings.

Mrs. Dodd earned $79,063 in fees from Cardiome in its last fiscal year, while Brookdale Senior Living gave her $122,231 in stock awards in 2008, their SEC filings show. She earned no income from her post as a director for Pear Tree Pharmaceuticals but holds up to $15,000 in stock in Pear Tree, which describes itself as a development-stage pharmaceutical company focused on the needs of aging women.

The annual financial disclosure reports for members of Congress are less precise. They only require that assets and liabilities be listed in ranges of values.

Dodd was granted a 90-day extension to file his report covering last year, but released it to The Associated Press.

Bryan DeAngelis, Dodd's spokesman, said, "Jackie Clegg Dodd's career is her own; absolutely independent of Senator Dodd, as it was when they married 10 years ago. The senator has worked to reform our health care system for decades, and nothing about his wife's career is relevant at all to his leadership of that effort."

DeAngelis said that Mrs. Dodd has hired a personal ethics lawyer to avoid any conflicts of interest and is not a lobbyist.

Other reports showed:

- Rockefeller, D-W.Va., reported $15,001 to $50,000 in capital gains for his wife from the sale of a stake in Athenahealth Inc., a business services company that helps medical providers with billing and clinical operations.

Rockefeller is honorary chairman of the Alliance for Health Reform, a Washington nonprofit whose board includes representatives from the UnitedHealth Group health insurance company; AFL-CIO labor union; the AARP, which sells health insurance; St. John Health, a nonprofit health system that includes seven hospitals and 125 medical facilities in southeast Michigan; CIGNA Corp., an employer-sponsored benefits company; and the United Hospital Fund of New York.

- Coburn, R-Okla., is a practicing physician. He reported slight business income, $268, from the Muskogee Allergy Clinic last year; $3,000 to $45,000 in stock in Affymetrix Inc., a biotechnology company and pioneer in genetic analysis; $1,000 to $15,000 in stock in Pfizer Inc., a pharmaceutical company; and a $1,000 to $15,000 interest in Thomas A. Coburn, MD, Inc. Under Senate ethics rules, Coburn can't accept money from his patients.

- Gregg, R-N.H., disclosed $250,001 to $500,000 in drug maker Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. stock and $1,000 to $15,000 each in stock in pharmaceutical companies Merck & Co. and Pfizer, the Johnson & Johnson health care products company and Agilent Technologies, which is involved in the biomedical industry.

- Kyl, R-Ariz., the Senate minority whip, reported $15,001 to $50,000 in stock in Amgen Inc., which develops medical therapeutics. Kyl's retirement account held stakes in several health care businesses, including the Wyeth, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and AstraZeneca pharmaceutical companies; medical provider Tenet Healthcare Corp.; CVS Caremark prescription and health services company; Genentech, a biotherapeutics manufacturer; and insurer MetLife Inc.

- Harkin, D-Iowa, has a joint ownership stake in health-related stocks. Harkin and his wife, Ruth Raduenz, own shares of drug makers Amgen and Genentech, Inc., each stake valued at $1,001 to $15,000; Their largest health care holding, Johnson & Johnson, was valued at $50,001 to $100,000.

- Hatch, R-Utah, a member of the Finance and Health committees, reported owning between $1,001 and $15,000 worth of stock in drug maker Pfizer Inc. He spoke to two pharmaceutical industry conferences last year. Sponsors of the conferences donated $3,500 to charities instead of speaking fees, as required by Senate rules.

Like millions of Americans, several senators took a financial hit in 2008. A sampling:

-Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., lost some $100,000 in equity in his home in Springfield and $35,000 in his Chicago condominium. Durbin, who released his tax returns, reported losing $32,259 in various investments last year, including more than $10,400 in Berkshire Hathaway and $5,535 in Fidelity stock.

-Kennedy in 2007 had four trusts each valued between $5,000,001-$25 million. In 2008, only one trust was still in that category while the rest had slipped in value to $1,000,001-$5 million.

-Hatch's investments suffered from the banking crisis. In 2007, he reported assets of between $2,002 and $30,000 in Countrywide Credit Industries Inc. stock. His 2008 financial disclosure lists the value at less than $1,000.

One of Dodd's investments showed a vast improvement.

A new appraisal more than doubled the value of his vacation cottage in Ireland, which has been subject of a Senate ethics complaint filed by a conservative group questioning if the undervalued property was really a gift.

The property is valued at 470,000 euros, or about $660,000, on Dodd's disclosure report. The previous year's report valued the seaside home, located in County Galway, at between $100,001 and $250,000.

DeAngelis, the spokesman, said Dodd and his wife decided to have the property appraised because they felt it was time to update the information.

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