Yesterday, Politico and ProPublica published a story suggesting Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR) sold his family pharmacy in Prescott, Arkansas, to a big drug store chain for above market value.
In response, Ross, who is the lead Blue Dog Dem working on the health care bill, has responded only partially to the story’s substance, without denying the key issue, and has repeatedly attacked ProPublica as illegitimate and “leftist.”
Meanwhile, good government group CREW today asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Ross committed “bribery and honest services fraud by selling a piece of commercial property for more than its worth to a pharmacy chain with an interest in pending legislation.” Ross calls the charge baseless.
A quick summary of the Politico/ProPublica story: Ross sold his family pharmacy to USA Drug back in 2007 for $420,000. But the county assessor valued the property at just $263,000. And an outside appraiser put the price at $198,000 for ProPublica.
The Rosses were also paid $500,000 to $1 million for the pharmacy’s assets (such as drugs on the shelf) and $100,001 to $250,000 to sign a non-compete agreement. Ross’s wife still works behind the counter at the store. Soon after the sale, the owner of USA Drug, which has an obvious interest in the health care bill, gave Ross a $2,300 donation.
In his defense, Ross released a statement saying he “spent $316,000 in 1998 constructing the building that houses the pharmacy and sold it for $420,000 in 2007 - the annual return on investment is less than four percent.” And he says he’s never done a favor for the buyer. As ProPublica notes, though, Ross has failed to respond to the key issue, that he received more than fair market price on the sale.
But that’s not all. Ross has lashed out at ProPublica for being, as he put it in a tweet today, a “leftist, ‘news’ organization.”
An official press release from his office actually calls ProPublica a “leftist group.”
Keep in mind the story was actually published in arch-establishmentarian Politico.
As for whether ProPublica is “leftist,” peruse the menu of calm, mainstream watchdog journalism on its Web site and judge for yourself.
A Ross staffer wouldn’t elaborate on the “leftist group” phrase but sent along this Slate article about ProPublica’s funders as evidence.