If you’re a health insurance provider or a health care-related company with a keen interest in the current health care debate, how do you ensure your side wins? Well, if you’re Arkansas-based USA Drug, you simply buy yourself a United States Congressman, in this case Arkansas Rep. Mike Ross, a Blue Dog Democrat playing a key role in the health care debate. In 2007, Rep. Ross sold a piece of commercial property he owned for substantially more than a county assessment and an independent appraisal say it was worth.
The buyer? USA Drug, 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.
Politics….it’s a stinky business.