I wonder what the voters in Ross' district are going to think as this news comes out. From The Politico's Propublica: Mike Ross raises eyebrows with healthy haul:
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.
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.
Mike Ross declined to be interviewed by both The Politico and The Rachel Maddow Show. He did however issue this response to The Politico:
“This style of gotcha politics is why many folks are fed up with Washington and it is a shame serious debate on reform has, once again, fallen off course. Instead of having civil dialogue over true and substantive disagreements about reforming our broken health care system, outside groups are trying to taint a completely legal and respected small business that my wife and I worked hard for 14 years to establish.
“When we sold our family business, Holly's Health Mart, over two years ago, we reported and disclosed all the transactions required by the House Ethics reporting requirements. I also accurately reported the property on my personal financial statement in 2007, when I sold the business. I sold it for the amount that I have indicated it was worth on every personal financial statement since 1999. I 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. I would have made more during that time period if I had invested in a certificate of deposit (CD).
“I have never done a favor for the buyer, who I have only met a few times in my life. The buyer did not just buy brick and mortar; he bought a successful, trusted, centrally-located and profitable pharmacy in my hometown. In two of my closest races, the buyer supported my Republican opponent in both of them. He has since supported my campaign.
“I welcome any debate and review on my voting record and my positions on the issue. I have said all along that we need health care reform in this country; in fact, I ran for Congress to address our broken system. It is for these reasons why I supported health care reform legislation in the Energy & Commerce Committee in order to ensure that we could move forward with the legislative process and give Members of Congress time to read the bill and talk it over with their constituents. We need common sense health care reform that reduces costs, increases access, forces insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions and protects patient choice. My ultimate goal has always been to pass a health care reform bill that will offer the kind of reforms I can support – a common sense plan that reflects Arkansas values.”