Rep. Mike Ross’ Shady Real Estate Deal Raises Questions

September 23, 2009

(ChattahBox)—Blue Dog Democrat Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas, a key player in the health reform debate, is under fire for a questionable 2007 real estate transaction, where the Congressman and his wife received $157,000 over the property’s assessed value from the buyer, Stephen L. LaFrance Sr, who happened to be the owner of the 15th largest drug chain in the country.

And that was just the beginning of the cash Ross hauled in from the deal, according to ProPublica, an independent, non-profit news organization.<!–more–>

The real estate transaction in question involved the sale of Holly’s Health Mart in Prescott, Ark., to USA Drug for $420,000, an amount described by ProPublica, as “an eye-popping number for real estate in the tiny train and lumber town about 100 miles southwest of Little Rock.”

Adam Guthrie, chairman of the county Board of Equalization and the only licensed real estate appraiser in Prescott said, “You can buy half the town for $420,000.”

But that was just the beginning of Ross’ profit on the deal:

“The owner of USA Drug, Stephen L. LaFrance Sr., also paid Ross $500,000 to $1 million for the pharmacy’s assets and paid Holly Ross another $100,001 to $250,000 for signing a non-compete agreement. Those numbers, which 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.”

Those numbers do not include the $2,300 campaign contribution Ross received from LaFrance two weeks after the sale closed.

Ross leads a group of Blue Dog Democrats that have been working to obstruct and water down meaningful health car reform. Ross also belongs to the Congressional Community Pharmacy Coalition, which has supported legislation backed by pharmacy trade groups.

Recently, Ross gloated that he held up the health care reform bill in committee, while the Blue Dogs joined with Republicans to twist concessions from Democratic committee members. Ross denied he was trying to kill the bill:

“We held the bill hostage in committee for 10 days to make it better. … We protected small businesses. … And we ensured that if there is a government option, it will be just that, an option. It will not be mandated on anybody.” I wasn’t trying to kill health care reform. If I was, I wouldn’t have been in negotiations for 10 days,” said Ross.

Ross’ spokesman, Brad Howard said the real estate deal was “open, honest and by-the-books.” and he described Ross and LaFrance as “acquaintances.

Since the transaction, LaFrance has publicly denounced health care reform. “There’ll be long lines, they won’t be able to get treated, potential doctors will be afraid to go into medical school, there will be an outflux of doctors – in my opinion. It’s not broke and don’t fix it,” said LaFrance in an article appearing in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Health care industries have contributed $342,475 to Ross since 2007. No other industry has contributed that extensively to Ross’ campaign coffers.


4 Responses to “Rep. Mike Ross’ Shady Real Estate Deal Raises Questions”

  1. Old Man Dotes on September 23rd, 2009 4:38 pm

    Smoking gun – Ross has *already* profited from supporting existing drug companies, and opposing health care reform. He’s a whore to existing health care profiteers such as USA Drug and AIG.

  2. Tom Degan on September 24th, 2009 6:46 am

    Sit, Blue Dog, sit! Good, Blue Dog! Nice, Blue Dog! Now be a good little doggy and lie down and play dead! On second thought, lie down and stay dead! GOOD boy!

    What gives here anyway? I grew up believing that the Democratic party was the “party of the people”! I was reminded of this again last weekend when I made a little pilgrimage to the FDR Library in Hyde Park, NY. President Roosevelt ushered regular people like you and I into the twentieth century. He brought electricity to the rural south! The middle class that we all now take for granted – which hadn’t even existed prior to the New Deal – is now in serious danger of vanishing. Look around you. The signs – ominous and disturbing – are all there. The entire reason for the existence of the Loony Right Wing since 1964 has been to roll back the advantages gained by the New Deal and the civil rights movement. Do you think I’m being an alarmist? Fine. Just keep sending these Right Wing extremists and these Blue Dog Democrats to Washington and see what happens.

    The Democrats are not going to distinguish their party by trying to sell themselves as Republican Lite. They’re not going to turn America around by foolishly preserving the policies of the last thirty years. They need to educate their constituency by showing them the folly of their abhorrence of things “Left” and “Liberal”. Three-quarters-of-a-century ago, American democracy was saved by a government that was decidedly left-of center in all but a few areas. It can happen again. But it’s only going to happen if WEEDA PEEPOLE refuse to turn right at the next crossroad. It is only down the road.

    Tom Degan
    Goshen, NY

  3. Becky Davis on September 24th, 2009 10:02 am

    Can you say Whitewater? I believe this to be a legal way of accepting bribe money.
    No wonder Mike Ross is against a public option. Money talks. From a part of the state that is not exceedingly wealthy, why isn’t Mike Ross looking out for their best interest.
    Far more people want public option than those that don’t. What do we need to do take up a collection?
    Next, maybe someone will see what Blanche Lincoln has been up to “legally”.

  4. Rep. Mike Ross’ Shady Real Estate Deal Raises Questions … « All About The Politics on September 24th, 2009 12:41 pm

    […] (ChattahBox)—Blue Dog Democrat Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas, a key player in the health reform debate, is under fire for a questionable 2007 real estate.More […]

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