As many as 30 congressmen involved in drafting health reform legislation hold health care stocks worth at least $11 million. The true value of these holdings could approach $27 million, since the congressional disclosure forms released last week don’t require reporting on precise values of asset holdings.
At least 8 Senators on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hold health care stocks worth a minimum of $600,000 and possibly as much as $1.9 million.
This group is currently deliberating on the Big O’s pet project, a “public option” that would compete against Big Insurance.
Similarly, at least 6 Senators on the Finance Committee hold stakes in health-care companies, including John Kerry, who with his wife holds at least $5.2 million in Merck, Lilly and other playahs.
In the House, where the Energy and Commerce Committee is drafting critical health reform legislation, the family of Jane Harman, a senior member, has stashed $3.2 million in a portfolio of 20 health care companies.
Congressional rules do not prevent members from holding stock in the industries they regulate, but ethicists raise concern that such behavior creates possible conflicts, especially if the legislation could be perceived as positively impacting their portfolios.
“If someone is going to be substantially enriched by the consequences of the vote…then there is a problem,” Harlan Krumholz, a Yale professor, told the Washington Post. “You don’t want to be tainted by any conflict.”
Yea, but Robert Walker, a former House and Senate ethics counsel, points out that the Congressmen are “simply one of perhaps thousands or more” investors in a particular corporation. Such investments, he claims, do not constitute “prohibitive conflicts.”
And in many cases, the congressmen’s holdings are but a sliver of their total assets. Harman, whose husband started the global electronics company Harman International, is reported to be worth $120 million, for example.