Many Senators Own Stock in Health Care Companies, Washington Post Reports
With Congress engaged in "intense debate" over health care costs and other issues, many senators or their spouses owned stock in companies associated with health care in 2002, according to financial disclosure statements released Friday, the Washington Post reports. Presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) reported sales of at least $545,000 in Merck stock, sales of more than $100,000 in GlaxoSmithKline stock and purchases of more than $2 million in Wyeth stock. A trust that benefits Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz-Kerry, included more than $1 million in Pfizer stock and a similar amount of stock in the pharmacy chain Walgreen. Presidential candidates Sens. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), John Edwards (D-N.C.) and Bob Graham (D-Fla.) also reported smaller investments in pharmaceutical and health care company stocks. In addition, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) reported blind trusts for himself, his wife and his sons with a combined value of between $6.5 million and $31 million. Frist is the son of the late founder of HCA, the nation's largest for-profit hospital chain, but has said that he has had no involvement with the company since his election to the Senate in 1994. Several senators said Friday that their investments in pharmaceutical companies would not affect their views in the Medicare prescription drug benefit debate. However, Bill Allison, spokesperson for the Center for Public Integrity, said, "When people have a financial interest in an industry, it's hard for them to objectively make policy. It doesn't mean they're going to vote their pocketbooks, but it certainly raises that question" (Morgan, Washington Post, 6/14).