Arkansas Rep. Mike Ross — a Blue Dog Democrat playing a key role in the health care debate — sold a piece of commercial property in 2007 for substantially more than a county assessment and an independent appraisal say it was worth.
The buyer: an Arkansas-based pharmacy chain with a keen interest in how the debate plays out.
Ross sold Holly’s Health Mart in Prescott, Ark., to USA Drug for $420,000 — an eye-popping price for real estate in a tiny train and lumber town about 100 miles southwest of Little Rock.
"You can buy half the town for $420,000," said Adam Guthrie, chairman of the county Board of Equalization and the only licensed real estate appraiser in Prescott.
I'm usually about the last one on board of "pay to play" stories, but this one really makes Ross look like absolute crap.
And there's more:
But the $420,000 that USA Drug paid for the pharmacy’s building and land was just the beginning of what Ross and his wife, Holly, made from the sale of Holly’s Health Mart. USA Drug owner Stephen L. LaFrance Sr. also paid the Rosses $500,000 to $1 million for the pharmacy’s assets and paid Holly Ross an additional $100,000 to $250,000 for signing a noncompete agreement. Those numbers, which Mike Ross listed on the financial disclosure reports he files as a member of Congress, bring the total value of the transaction to between $1 million and $1.67 million.
And that’s not counting the $2,300 campaign contribution Ross received from LaFrance two weeks after the sale closed.
Holly Ross remains the pharmacist at Holly’s Health Mart under USA Drug. Neither she nor her husband agreed to speak with ProPublica for this story.
Somewhere between $1 million and $1.67 million, plus the maximum campaign contribution allowable and a paid job for Mrs. Ross. How's that going to effect the numbers in Ross' district, where he insists the public option, for instance, is overwhelmingly unpopular, when in fact it's not?
The new question: Do you approve or disapprove of Congressman Mike Ross' actions on health care, given that he just pocketed over $1 million from a pharmacy chain that's aggressively lobbying Congress to protect its profits by weakening any and all health care reform legislation?
More discussion can be found in TomP's recommended diary.