Thursday, February 09, 2006

will Frist's support of Tennessee GOP senate nominee further corrupt the office he holds and they seek?

In the early 1990s, I had the pleasure of engaging in a series of private sessions with citizen Bill Frist as he considered the prospects of one day running for public office. His questions in those days seemed sincere and genuine. At the time he expressed his desire to make a difference for a greater good. He studied and analyzed Democratic and Republican principles - consulting with distinguished Tennessee statesmen from both parties (Ned McWherter, Howard Baker, etc), and wrestling with what political path to travel down.
When he ran for the US Senate in 1994, he ran as a Republican against longtime Democratic Senator Jim Sasser. Frist's theme in that race was all about changing the way Washington conducted the people's business. He positioned himself as a reformist, decrying business as usual on Capitol Hill. His strategy worked and he rode into office on the GOP political tsnami that hit Tennessee that year.
But soon after Frist took office he began to change his tune about changing the way things get done in DC.
Over my 25 plus years around politics I have seen it happen time and again. Unripe political newbies sometimes go bad when they ripen into full-fledged politicians - feeding off the power surge of Congressional privilege.
This morning I read the Gannett News Service story about Frist's latest legislative ploy to slip language into a Defense Department appropriations bill that protects pharmaceutical companies from lawsuits. The bill had already gone through a bipartisan House-Senate conference committee vetting. Frist waited until after this vetting to slip in the protective language. It comes as no surprise, Gannett reports, that Frist has also been the receipient of hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions from the pharmaceutical industry.
No doubt Frist and his political machine - his PAC, and other GOP political resources he controls - will come to the aid of the Republican nominee - Hilleary, Corker or Byrant - who will be seeking to fill his Senate seat this election cycle.
I hope that Tennesseans who once had faith in the mission of citizen Frist will think long and hard about what has become of the man they once supported, and I hope that they will also consider what his endorsement and support of a prospective Republican successor might do to further corrupt the dignity of the office he has held and that they seek.

2 Comments:

Blogger Litz said...

This is not a surprise to those of us who have been following the thimerosal scandal. Frist has been slipping these pharmaceutical protection acts into bills for years and they keep getting discovered and tossed out. Eli Lilly is yanking his chain on this one.

For anyone who missed last summer's excellent Rolling Stone article on the topic, "Deadly Immunity," you can find it reprinted at Common Dreams:


http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0616-31.htm

Here's a pertinent SNIP:

Frist, who has received $873,000 in contributions from the pharmaceutical industry, has been working to immunize vaccine makers from liability in 4,200 lawsuits that have been filed by the parents of injured children. On five separate occasions, Frist has tried to seal all of the government's vaccine-related documents -- including the Simpsonwood transcripts -- and shield Eli Lilly, the developer of thimerosal, from subpoenas.

In 2002, the day after Frist quietly slipped a rider known as the "Eli Lilly Protection Act" into a homeland security bill, the company contributed $10,000 to his campaign and bought 5,000 copies of his book on bioterrorism. Congress repealed the measure in 2003 -- but earlier this year, Frist slipped another provision into an anti-terrorism bill that would deny compensation to children suffering from vaccine-related brain disorders. "The lawsuits are of such magnitude that they could put vaccine producers out of business and limit our capacity to deal with a biological attack by terrorists," says Andy Olsen, a legislative assistant to Frist.

11:54 AM  
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12:46 PM  

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