An Orange County Grand Jury last week indicted 45-year-old Kareem Ahmed and 14 others, alleging he formulated topical creams and oversaw an extensive network of kickbacks that paid doctors and pharmacists more than $25 million to prescribe and distribute the products. Ahmed, president of Ontario company Landmark Medical Management, and the others face a total of 44 counts on felony charges including conspiracy, trading rebates for patient referrals, insurance fraud and involuntary manslaughter, according to two grand jury indictments.
The Los Angeles Times back story says that “with little prior history of political giving, Ahmed emerged as a major donor to Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, giving $1 million to the pro-Obama Priorities USA Action that year, and an additional $5,000 to the president’s campaign, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. In addition, Ahmed made the center’s list of 100 top donors to outside spending groups, and also gave $100,000 each to the House Majority PAC and Senate Majority PAC, and thousands more to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Los Angeles County Democratic Central Committee.”
The website CampaignMoney.com, which tracks political donations, shows that Ahmed also donated $75,800 in total to the Obama Victory Fund in 2012. Other beneficiaries of Ahmed’s generosity include the Majority PAC and the House Majority PAC, which both received $100,000. Ahmed reportedly donated to a number of Democratic senators and representatives, including $5,000 to Florida Sen. Bill Nelson’s 2012 re-election campaign. In 2013, he contributed $5,200 to Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey’s coffers.
The Daily Caller claims that Ahmed also gave California Rep. Brad Sherman a total of $7,500 in 2012. That seemingly merited a shout of from Sherman on the House floor. On June 27, 2012, the politician hat-tipped Ahmed and another doctor in attendance who, said Sherman, “show such leadership of the Muslim community in the Los Angeles area.”
According to TPM, Ahmed claimed in a 2012 interview with the outlet that California Rep. Nancy Pelosi was his “best friend.”
The Orange County Weekly goes on with this back story. One year before that, then-Assemblyman and Assembly Insurance Committee Chairman Jose Solorio (D-Santa Ana) sponsored a bill to stop workers comp profiteering through “drug compounding,” which involves using multiple medications to create a chemical remedy specifically for one patient. It is labor intensive, costly and, according to Solorio’s legislation, devastating to California’s already bloated workers comp system. “Drug compounding–a legal but rarely necessary practice–has exploded as a physician profit-center in workers comp,” Solorio said at the time. “That practice must be stopped.”
Before Governor Jerry Brown signed Solorio’s bill into law in October 2011, the legislation withstood heavy lobbying from Ahmed’s Ontario-based company, Landmark Medical Management. The firm’s former vice president, Bruce Curnick, took credit for gathering opposition to the bill, convincing all Republicans in the State Senate to oppose it so there would not be enough votes for it to advance to the governor and helping hammer out a more industry-palatable version for Brown to sign after the Assembly-Senate negotiations. The State Bar disbarred Curnick in 2000 for misappropriating about $40,000 of client funds, disregarding the welfare of seven clients, acts of moral turpitude and 15 other violations of professional rules. Curnick reportedly mentioned to Talking Points Memo that Solorio’s bill as signed into law was essentially toothless because doctors could get around restrictions by administering the compounds themselves in their offices.
Other interesting cases are pending that raise questions about the role of political influence. Sen. Ronald S. Calderon and his brother, Tom, have been indicted on public corruption charges. The case alleges that Ronald Calderon accepted $88,000 in bribes from an undercover FBI agent and a businessman to affect legislation to extend film-industry tax credits and to change workers’ compensation laws.
It goes without saying that the top twenty pharmaceutical companies and their two trade groups, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and Biotechnology Industry Organization, lobbied on at least 1,600 pieces of legislation between 1998 and 2004. According to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, pharmaceutical companies spent $900 million on lobbying between 1998 and 2005, more than any other industry. During the same period, they donated $89.9 million to federal candidates and political parties, giving approximately three times as much to Republicans as to Democrats. According to the Center for Public Integrity, from January 2005 through June 2006 alone, the pharmaceutical industry spent approximately $182 million on Federal lobbying. The industry has 1,274 registered lobbyists in Washington D.C.
So the question is this. What does the pharmaceutical industry expect to gain in return?