Dellums was a Black Panther supporter 'back-in-the-day', even speaking at a
'United Front Against Fascism' event, sponsored by BPP (date?). Anyone have
the transcript of his speech? Roz, any audio or video floating around of
the UFAF event?
>Dellums for Dollars
>DOUG IRELAND reports.
>For nearly three decades, California Democratic Congressman Ron Dellums-an
>African-American '60s radical elected from a safe East Bay district-was
>considered one of the most progressive members of Congress, eventually
>rising with seniority to chair the House Armed Services Committee, where he
>fought to trim bloated Pentagon budgets. Over the years, this Black Caucus
>leader became known for everything from opposing the Persian Gulf War to
>championing single-payer (government-run) health care to fighting President
>Clinton's welfare reform bill. After retiring two years ago, Dellums'
>activism appeared to continue: He began garnering publicity for advocating
>a $6 billion Marshall Plan for AIDS in Africa, and this past March, Clinton
>named him chair of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. But
>meanwhile, unreported by any media, Dellums has quietly gone to work for
>both the pharmaceutical and health care industries. And therein lies a
>complex and disturbing tale.
>A less costly version of Dellums' Marshall Plan idea was put forward last
>year as a bill introduced by his handpicked successor (and former top aide)
>Rep. Barbara Lee. However, House Banking Committee chair Jim Leach of Iowa,
>a thoughtful conservative Republican, had introduced a not entirely
>dissimilar proposal to provide aid to the developing world in fighting AIDS
>through the World Bank. Dellums told POZ that, at his instigation, Leach
>and Lee agreed to meld their proposals, and the compromise result, the
>World Bank AIDS Trust Fund ACT (HR 3519), is now pending in Congress.
>As approved by the House Banking Committee, the Leach-Lee bill authorizes a
>mere $200 million a year over five years in U.S. contributions to the
>proposed fund, to be administered by the World Bank, for research,
>prevention programs, vaccine development, clinics and medications. Based on
>past aid initiatives, Dellums argues that the federal funds could, during
>the first half-decade, leverage up to $5 billion in contributions from
>other Western governments, corporations, foundations and nonprofits. But
>even in that unlikely event, the total would fall far short of the $100
>billion each year that some experts estimate would be needed to provide
>drugs to just half of the Third World's 33 million HIVers.
>Moreover, the Leach-Lee bill is silent on the crucial issue of drug
>pricing. In the poorest countries with the highest infection rates, which
>have little or no health care coverage, HIV drugs sold at Western prices
>are simply out of the reach of those who most need them. But under
>Leach-Lee, behemoth pharmaceutical companies could get a charitable tax
>deduction for their contributions to the World Bank fund, reap a p.r.
>harvest of good will for their supposed generosity, and make back the money
>they gave by selling AIDS drugs at their current inflated prices to
>"If there's nothing on drug pricing (in Leach-Lee), it won't work," says
>Jim Jones, policy director for Massachusetts Democratic Senator John Kerry,
>one of the Senate's leading AIDS advocates. Jones says that Kerry will add
>to Leach-Lee's Senate counterpart bill (of which Kerry is a principal
>cosponsor) a provision requiring that drug companies seeking those tax
>deductions report annually on what they're doing to lower drug prices
>Dellums is passionate and powerfully eloquent when describing the
>devastating effect of the AIDS pandemic on Africa-but ask him about drug
>pricing and he starts to filibuster: "If you dropped all of the drugs in
>the world on Africa, people would still die of AIDS" because of the lack of
>health care infrastructure in those poor countries, he says, arguing that
>"We have to put the cost of treatment in the perspective of everything
>else." While admitting, when pressed, that "the issues of [drug]
>affordability and accessibility have to be addressed," he wouldn't say how.
>Asked about the amendment to the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act offered
>by Democratic Senators Diane Feinstein and Russ Feingold, which would
>forbid the U.S. government from pressuring developing nations not to
>exercise their legal rights to manufacture cheap, generic versions of AIDS
>drugs-legislation being fought tooth and nail by the pharmaceutical
>lobby-Dellums claimed ignorance of the amendment. Coming from a
>Congressional veteran who heads the AIDS council, that's hard to believe.
>And even when the provision was explained to him, he refused to express an
>opinion-although both the White House and Vice President Al Gore had
>already endorsed it.
>It turns out that Dellums is a highly paid consultant to pharmaceutical
>giant Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS). When POZ asked him how much BMS was
>paying him-his fee is rumored to be in the mid-six figures-Dellums angrily
>refused to answer, and began yelling that the question was "insulting."
>Dellums has accompanied top BMS executives on junkets to South Africa. And
>a largely paper nonprofit Dellums chairs, the Constituency for Africa, gave
>BMS-which has made billions from AIDS drugs developed by taxpayer-funded
>research-an award for its "contributions to fighting AIDS."
>Dellums insisted he has only consulted with BMS on its controversial
>"Secure the Future" program, through which the drug company will spend $20
>million a year over five years to provide research and training on AIDS in
>five Southern African countries. BMS announced this initiative in May 1999,
>at the very moment the company (along with 40 others) was suing the South
>African government to prevent its implementation of generic drug access,
>and just as U.S. and South African demonstrations were beginning against
>Clinton administration bullying of South Africa and other developing
>countries on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry. The Wall Street Journal
>reported that the BMS plan was "certain to raise ethical questions" since
>"Bristol Myers hopes to support South African studies involving 20,000 AIDS
>patients, mostly women and children, taking drug cocktails that in some
>cases consist solely" of the company's three blockbuster AIDS drugs: ddI
>(Videx), d4T (Zerit), and hydroxyurea (Hydrea). Moreover, said the Journal,
>the trials will include treatments considered "suboptimal" in the West,
>such as using only two drugs, and added that the initiative will allow BMS
>to develop markets and low-cost research facilities in developing
>countries. And the plan does not assure continued treatment for BMS's
>African guinea pigs once the research program ends.
>Finally, for a huge company with well over $18 billion in annual revenues,
>the $20 million it will spend a year on the program is chump change: To put
>it in stark perspective, BMS's CEO receives an annual salary of $146
>million. That's why the "Secure the Future" initiative was rebaptized
>"Secure the Profits" by AIDS activists and why Jamie Love, director of
>Ralph Nader's Consumer Project on Technology, denounced it as "a cynical
>public relations and marketing ploy by a company that's fighting to
>maintain its monopolies on government-funded HIV drugs." Dellums' work for
>BMS is considered by many a glaring conflict of interest with his role as
>chair of the president's AIDS council. As Mario Cooper, a prominent
>African-American AIDS activist, put it, "If Dellums is working for any drug
>company, he should resign" as council chair.
>But that's not the only conflict in Dellums' portfolio.The ex-Congressman
>also heads an outfit called Healthcare International Management Company,
>which, according to its vice president for governmental affairs, Charles
>Stevenson, is trying to set up HMOs in South Africa and other African
>countries. Given the appalling history of HMOs here-which has led to
>widespread demands for Congress to pass a Patients' Bill of Rights-it's
>hard to see why this approach would be a boon to the people of South
>Africa, whose health care system is already sinking under the weight of the
>AIDS pandemic. That's even more the case since Dellums' company is a
>subsidiary of a financially troubled Tennessee-based conglomerate, Access
>Health Systems, whose CEO, Tony Cebrun, has what several Tennessee
>reporters told POZ is a "lavish home" in South Africa. Through another of
>its subsidiaries, Access MedPlus, Cebrun's operation is the second-largest
>subcontractor to the state's $4.4 billion TennCare program, which covers
>1.3 million people who are poor, disabled or cannot otherwise get health
>insurance. This Cebrun company has been plagued by a series of lawsuits for
>nonpayment of its health care providers, including a $6 million lawsuit by
>Vanderbilt University Hospital for unpaid hospital and doctor bills; it has
>been teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, to the point that Access MedPlus
>recently took out full-page ads in Tennessee newspapers to claim solvency.
>Although it has been criticized by state regulators and legislators for
>failing to disclose financial information required by law, Cebrun's
>operation is, according to a Tennessee health beat reporter who insisted on
>anonymity, "politically untouchable" because "half the black politicians in
>the state have relatives on its payroll." One of them is the
>much-investigated former Memphis congressman Harold Ford Sr., boss of a
>notoriously corrupt Memphis-based political machine, who retired from the
>House under a hail of subpoenas, turning his seat over to his son, Harold
>Jr. Harold Sr., whose brother John-a State Senator-has also had brushes
>with the law and is the chief water-carrier for Cebrun's companies in the
>legislature, brokered the deal that brought Dellums to Access, for which
>Dellums is said by a corporate source to have been paid $1 million.
>Which brings us back to the Dellums-inspired World Bank AIDS Trust Fund.
>Under the Leach-Lee legislation, it is the World Bank, not recipient
>countries, that will determine AIDS spending. And the bank has long pressed
>for HMOs in developing countries. If the Dellums-Cebrun company persuades
>South Africa to let it set up HMOs, it stands to make a bundle.
>So while the Leach-Lee bill may be better than nothing, the skein of
>Dellums' interlocking interests does call to mind the cynical old saw: You
>can often do well by doing good.
>Senior Editor, POZ Magazine
>349 W. 12th Street, 2d fl.
>New York, NY 10014
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