[sixties-l] Fwd: Ron Dellums (then & now)

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Thu Jun 22 2000 - 19:53:51 CUT

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    radman says:
    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
    >fund-sponsored programs.
    >"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.
    >Bob Lederer
    >Senior Editor, POZ Magazine
    >349 W. 12th Street, 2d fl.
    >New York, NY 10014

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