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Rep. Tom Price, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, is facing ethics questions over investments he made in medical companies while serving in Congress.
Citing House records, CNN revealed on Monday that Price last year bought $1,001 to $15,000 in Zimmer Biomet, a leading provider of knee and hip implants.
A week after the purchase, Price introduced a bill called the HIP Act, which would have delayed a new regulation expected to be damaging to Zimmer Biomet’s business.
Additionally, Zimmer Biomet’s political action committee made donations of $1,000 to Price’s reelection campaign both before and after the introduction of the bill, according to CNN’s report.
A representative for Price told CNN after the report came out that the investment, campaign contributions, and bill’s introduction had nothing to do with one another. Trump transition team spokesman Phil Blando later said the shares were bought through a broker without Price’s knowledge.
“Any effort to connect the introduction of bipartisan legislation by Dr. Price to any campaign contribution is demonstrably false,” Blando said Monday in a statement.
Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has called for an ethics investigation into Price for a possible violation of the Stock Act, which limits the investments and trading activities of members of Congress.
“This isn’t just a couple of questionable trades, but rather a pattern of Rep Price trading stock & using his office to benefit” those companies, Schumer tweeted on Monday night along with the CNN report, adding that the Office of Congressional Ethics “needs to conduct an immediate, thorough investigation into Rep. Price’s potential violations of the STOCK Act before nom moves forward.”
Price goes before the Senate for his confirmation hearing for the health and human services post on Wednesday. Price’s office has said his investments followed ethical guidelines and he will divest himself of all his stock holdings within 90 days of a confirmation by the Senate.
The news came a few days after a report from Kaiser Health News and The Daily Beast reported that Price received a “sweetheart” stock deal from an Australian biotech firm, Innate Immunotherapeutics. Innate was clear in its business plan that it was seeking to influence key US officials to get approval for a new multiple sclerosis drug, according to the report.
Price, along with Rep. Chris Collins of New York and other US investors, received a 12% discount on the shares. These sorts of discounts, however, are typical in private-placement investment such as the one in which Price took part.
Price’s office also said the Innate investment complied with all ethics guidelines for congressional members.
The Wall Street Journal also looked at Price’s history of ownership in healthcare stocks in December. According to the Journal report, Price traded about $300,000 worth of healthcare-related stocks over the past four years while introducing or cosponsoring a large number of healthcare-related bills.
Price is also the head of the House Budget Committee and sits on the Ways and Means Committee, which is influential in crafting healthcare-related legislation.
Price, an orthopedic surgeon, has been picked by Trump to help shepherd the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, the healthcare law better known as Obamacare. The president-elect said last week at his press conference that the replacement bill would be developed as soon as the Senate confirmed Price.
Price has long been critical of the ACA, while in Congress he introduced a bill – the Empowering Patients First Act – that would have repealed and replaced the law.