Lovett: Health Committee pol raises eyebrows with investments in drug firms
December 2, 2015
ALBANY — The head of the powerful Senate Health Committee has up to $130,000 in investments in pharmaceutical and other health-related companies, state records show.
Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Nassau County) in 2014 invested in 14 companies that would fall under his committee’s purview.
By comparison, Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) did not report owning any stock in health-related companies. In addition to his investments, Hannon over the past four years also received more than $420,000 from pharmaceutical and other medical interests, records show.
Hannon’s office had no comment. On the part of his 2014 state financial disclosure form dealing with investments, he wrote that sales and purchases were “at sole discretion of the broker.”
While seemingly legal, the senator’s investments and the campaign contributions he received from the medical community have raised eyebrows at a time when how Albany does business is under legal scrutiny.
Two former top legislative leaders, Assemblyman Sheldon Silver and Sen. Dean Skelos, are facing prison after being charged separately with using their offices for personal gain.
“Given the attention placed on the self-dealing that exists in Albany with these trials, it would be best if Sen. Hannon would divest from these companies,” said Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, a reform group.
Dadey argued that lawmakers should operate without even an appearance of impropriety.
“These investments show that he has a personal stake in how the state handles health care policy,” he said. “He’s an important player that should not be seen as benefiting personally from the decisions he’s a part of.”
The Daily News reported in March that Hannon had secured $65,000 in state grant money for a Long Island hospital with strong ties to his private law firm.
Hours after he personally called different newspaper publishers to tell them he was signing a bill they wanted, Gov. Cuomo vetoed the measure.
Cuomo, sources said, had called several publishers, including those in Buffalo and Albany, to say he would support a bill that would have saved them big money by exempting some newspaper carriers from different state minimum wage, unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation requirements.
But not long after, he issued a veto message saying that the bill would be contrary to his administration’s goal of ensuring “a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, with all of the appropriate protections available under the law.”
“What changed?” asked one source. “Doesn’t he know he’s putting another nail, or two, in the coffin of the print newspaper business?”
The teamsters union applauded the move.
Cuomo’s office said it doesn’t “comment on private conversations.”
The recent surprise retirement of the state teachers union’s top lobbyist came amid pressure from Michael Mulgrew, head of the city teachers union, sources said.
Mulgrew, whose members make up a major portion of the state union, is said to have grown disenchanted with Steve Allinger during the legislative session.
Mulgrew didn’t deny he played a role in Allinger’s departure.
“We have to get work done, move fast, and everyone has to be on the same page,” he said.
Union insiders say the Allinger situation is part of a larger schism that has left state teachers union President Karen Magee isolated from the rest of her union leadership halfway through her first term.
Sources said Mulgrew is also unhappy with Magee, though he denied it.
The two unions, Mulgrew said, “are moving together in a much more coordinated effort than we were before. All (Magee’s) positions have been good. She’s taking the right path on things.”