Monday, February 02, 2009

Tom Daschle history with lobbying firm damages credibility as future head of HHS

Tom Daschle has held a position as "policy advisor" with a prominent Washington law firm with well known lobbying activities.

The Washington Law firm, Alston and Bird, has a number of clients in the health care industry. See here for some details and here for a list of health care clients which include CVS Caremark, several drug companies and the American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association. The lobbying targets included HHS, FDA,CMS ( Medicare and Medicaid) and CDC.

Mr.Daschle was not a registered lobbyist in his position at Alston and Bird but was characterized as a " special public policy advisor" so an argument can be ( and has been) raised by the administration that since Mr. Daschle was not technically designated as lobbyist his appointment would violate no policy or promises regarding a lobbyist free administration.Even so, the administration says Mr. Daschle will recuse himself from any HHS work that might conflict with any previous activity he may have had while at Alston.

His wife is a lobbyist whose firm, Baker Donelson, has worked with Schering-Plough in efforts to extend patent rights for one of its medications. ( Will Mr.Daschle recuse himself also based on his wife's lobby activities?) At this writing she may have left that firm to set up her own lobbying firm and she was best known for her lobbying expertise in the aviation industries not in health care matters.

Moreover, Daschle's chief of staff at HHS will be Mark B. Childress and he did official lobbying work for another Washington Law firm, (Foley Hoag). Administration spokesmen have indicated that Mr. Childress will recuse himself from matters at HHS that he previously dealt with in his former lobbying life. See here for some details.

The list goes on. The nominee for the post of Deputy secretary of HHS is Bill Corr, who has also has been a registered lobbyist with some activity in health related activities.See here for details on that nomination. It is promised that he too will recuse himself should an issue arise at HHS for which he has a lobbying history.

It seems that whatever issue will be on the table at HHS there will be a lot of recusal going on.

The Public Citizen blog "Becoming 44" expressed their doubt of Daschle's suitability for the HHS post this way:

...the assurance that Daschle will recuse himself from any work presenting a conflict is hard to digest. He would, if formally nominated and confirmed, be the leader of the entire enterprise.

While we do not know which specific Alston health care clients Daschle worked for, it is highly likely that many of them would be affected by the regulatory decisions made by the director of HHS.

Daschle is also an advocate of the proposed Federal Medical Board and will play a dual role being the point man for President Obama's plans for health care change about which I have blogged before. Whatever concerns one may have regarding Daschle's appointment to HHS would apply to his role as architect of what appears to be a very powerful governmental body whose decisions may well have considerable impact on everyone's medical care and on the financial bottom line of many organizations, a list of which include many of the clients of Alston and Bird.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

The senators who have to "approve" him seem much more interested in his taxes than in any lobbying or lobbying-like activity over the past two years for which he has been very well compensated. Could this be that they hope that the lobby-advisor-door opener- role will be available to them if and when the voters throw them out?

james gaulte said...

Anon-1:53
I think you nailed it.Sometimes the best and most lucrative thing that can happen to a senator is to not get re-elected. Income wise it really worked out well for Mr. Daschle and he is just one in a long line of well to do ex-senators who make a very nice living opening doors in the Washinton.