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Friday, June 19, 2009

Following the Money in Health Care Reform

Following some of the health care reform legislation markup session on C-SPAN yesterday, I noticed at the end of the session, acting Chairman Christopher Dodd (D-CT) was visited by his wife and two young daughters.

This might not have been of much interest, except I've read recently about Mrs. Dodd's connections with the health care industry. She receives a very comfortable income from her board memberships on five corporations and a sixth board membership compensation is not listed publicly. Articles online from The Hartford Courant and Yahoo News have summarized connections and numbers on Mrs. Dodd, as well as on others - Democrats Jay Rockefeller and Tom Harkin besides Dodd in the Senate, and Republicans Tom Coburn, Judd Gregg, John Kyl and Orrin Hatch. All have stock in parmaceutical or biotech companies. Also, it has been noted that the property and house owned by Dodd in County Galway, Ireland, purchased with the help of disgraced CEO of Countrywide Financial, has more than tripled in value according to a property appraisal recently performed.

Jackie Clegg Dodd has hired a personal ethics lawyer to deal with any conflicts of interest. Since her marriage in 1999 to Senator Dodd, her income has quadrupled. Now in a six-figure range, it is all due to her generous compensation from corporate boards of directors. She is a former legislative aide to former astronaut and chair of the Senate banking committee, Republican Senator Jake Garn. Her degree - a master's in national security studies.

She did work as a staffer on the banking and the appropriations committees. Then she was appointed as a special assistant to the chairman of the Export-Import Bank. This bank "was created to provide export financing for U.S. goods and service." That according to Courant.com.

"An official familiar with the bank's operations said that Clegg Dodd's duties at the bank involved, for the greater part, administration and public and congressional relations. The official, who asked not to be identified for fear of offending Dodd, said he does not believe that Clegg Dodd's legislative and banking experience qualified her as an audit committee expert. When she left the bank in 2001, her salary was $125,700 per year.

Clegg Dodd was compensated to the tune of approximately $500,000 in 2007 and again in 2008 from corporate boards. Her compensation is a mix of cash - about half - and equity. Needless to say, this is political opposition fodder by Dodd's opponents. Dodd is in danger of losing his seat during this re-election cycle. Having been so prominent in the housing financial scandals truly damaged his image in Connecticut. "In Washington, offering employment to the spouses and family members of politicians is a time-honored, if not so honorable, tradition," said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the nonprofit watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics. It's another way for politicians to gain income and for donors, potential donors, people and industries with business before government to curry favor with powerful members who have jurisdiction over their issues."

In the article on Courant .com, State Republican Chairman Christorpher Healy is quoted as saying her directorships don't "pass the smirk test." He continues, "I think in general the volume and the depth of value that Mrs. Dodd seems to have acquired would make even a gullible person wince at the hint of nepotism and favors that would be shown toward the spouse of a very powerful political leader."

From SEC filings, Clegg Dodd is listed as director of Cardiome Pharma Corp and Javelin Pharmaceuticals, Inc. - both pharmaceutical firms. Also, Brookdale Senior Living Inc; Blockbuster, Inc; and CME Group Inc, the world's largest futures exchange. She is listed as a director of a startup - Pear Tree Pharmaceuticals, though no compensation is reported publicly.

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