Saturday, September 24, 2005

Eyes Wide Open Blind Trust

Once again, we may have been duped. The blind trust of Senator Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., may not have been so blind after all.

For years, the senator has repeatedly assured a trustful nation that there was nothing unseemly about owning stock worth $7 million to $35 million. He was unaware of how the money was invested and what stocks he owned.

And throughout the 90s, the senator affirmed there was no conflict of interest, even as he voted to protect his family business—“a nationwide hospital chain”—by throwing fast curves at President Clinton's patients' bill of rights, eventually passed by a Democratic-led Senate, but killed by the GOP House.

Only two years ago ago when questioned about possible conflicts of interest, Frist looked straight into the eye of television cameras and said, “I think really for our viewers it should be understood that I put this into a blind trust.” This being shares from HCA Inc., a for-profit hospital management company started by Frist's father, older brother and former executive of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Jack Massey.

"I have no control," he declared. "It is illegal right now for me to know what the composition of those trusts are. So I have no idea.

But it seems yet another Republican leader might have "disassembled," you know Bushism for lied. The Associated Press and ABC now report that “[d]ocuments filed with the Senate showed that just two weeks before those comments, the trustee of the senator's trust...wrote to Frist that HCA stock [had been] contributed to the trust...valued at $15,000 and $50,000."

Frist is presently under fresh scrutiny. The senator had the divine good fortune of selling his HCA shares before they plummeted by 9 percent, a tidy savings to the good doctor of as much as $630,000 to over $3.3 million!

Sha-ZAM, why Martha Stewart went to prison for a whole lot less, a mere pittance of $50,000.

But before Democratic partisans try to ride a ripple into a storm wave of insider trading, Amy Call, a spokeswoman for Frist assures us that "[h]is only objective in selling the stock was to eliminate the appearance of a conflict of interest."

See how simple that was...

The benevolent timing, she says, is purely a stroke of good luck. "[H]e had no way of knowing -- under the rules of the blind trusts -- how quickly the stock would be sold."

But inquiring minds along with the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission want to know if the fact "top executives inside the company" sold their stock just as they reached their high point last summer was just another dumb coincidence or if something more synister was at play.

With Rove, DeLay, Ney, Abramoff, Haft, Fletcher, and countless others, a quote from Marshall Wittman, former director at the Hudson Institute, a "hard-right activist think tank" in The Associated Press sums up the problem with Republican leaders quite fittingly.


The overall problem the Republican Party has is it is increasingly looking like Tammany Hall...An odor of sleaziness is enveloping the Republicans and seeping into the administration.

For the history-challenged readers, Wittman was comparing the party of Lincoln to party bosses in New York City during the 1800s who pilfered public funds and are forever associated with stinky corruption.

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