The Much Less Secret Life Of Howard Dean, Drug Industry Advisor

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Yesterday, I wrote a piece about Tom Daschle, who went on Meet The Press to talk about the need to defeat the insurance industry without disclosing that he was working for the insurance industry. Indeed, Daschle is not the only prominent proponent of health care reform with less-than-obvious industry ties.

Howard Dean, the former head of the Democratic National Committee, and an outspoken advocate for the public option, works for a lobbying firm, McKenna Long and Aldrich, that has a number of health industry clients, mostly in the field of biologic pharmaceuticals. He has been known to use his public position to further the interests of his clients, as he did in this op-ed for The Hill, a Capitol Hill trade.

But he does have a better record than Daschle of disclosing his financial interests, as he did Monday night on CNBC. (See disclosure at about 35 seconds)

Note that after he stated the disclosure, Dean effectively toed the line of his clients, whose views may well be in line with what he believed before the extra paychecks. Under his agreement with McKenna, Dean has agreed not to make public his specific clients, his spokeswoman told me. He also does not currently work for any health insurance clients, she added, and has the freedom to turn down work with any client that he does not want to assist. (One of McKenna’s major lobbying clients is KBR, a former division of Halliburton which was previously led by former Vice President Dick Cheney.)

So Dean’s disclosure is welcome. It should be required of all paid consultants who do television punditry. The only shame is that it is effectively optional in the current climate. Until producers start demanding it, Daschle should take a page from the Dean playbook. The viewing public has a right to know.

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