Last year the U.S. Congress’ Committee on Oversight & Government Reform held a hearing. The buzz on the web was that this prompted by lobbying by people and groups who promote the idea that vaccines have caused the rise in autism diagnoses. In other words, the hearing was supposed to be a hearkening back to the “good old days” when the Committee under Dan Burton held hearings promoting the idea that vaccines cause autism. Instead, the hearing became “1 in 88 Children: A Look Into the Federal Response to Rising Rates of Autism“. The hearing originally did not include autistic representation but, after a phone/fax/email campaign, that changed. Ari Ne’eman of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and Michael John Carley of GRASP were invited to speak. The Committee then were presented with the false dichotomy of “Parents who believe in the vaccine epidemic” vs. “Autistics who don’t and want a focus on improving the lives of autistics”. Also a long session where Members of Congress berated government public health employees.
All in all a waste of my tax dollars, if you ask me.
The people who lobbied for the hearing apparently were not pleased with various aspects of the hearing.
The buzz has been building that another hearing is in the works. We were told that $40,000 had been donated the Political Action Committee (PAC) for the chair of the Oversight committee, Darryl Issa. The original source for that information (Patrick “Tim” Bolen) is far (far, far, far) from reliable. Also, there are limits on campaign donations and it seemed unlikely to me that $40k could be donated to his PAC. But, with the chatter rising on the hearing to the point that people are claiming it is scheduled for November, I thought I’d check.
The donations were reported to have been made from Jennifer Larson, who is with the tiny “Canary Party”. Tax documents indicate that Ms. Larson is a large financial backer of the Canary Party. Searching for what donations Ms. Larson has made (using OpenSecrets.org, the Center for Responsive Politics) I found a total of $40,000 donations to Congressman Issa, his PAC and the Republican National Committee though Ms. Larson and her company Vibrant Technologies (click to enlarge):
The bulk went to the Republican National Committee. I’d love to see what, if any, arrangements the RNC has to support Issa with those funds. If you think that the $10,200 given directly to ISSA and his PAC is not enough to get noticed, keep in mind that this is the 5th highest amount given to the Congressman this year (click to enlarge):
Ms. Larson is quoted in a press release:
“We are thrilled that Rep. Darrell Issa will be holding a second round of vaccine hearings this fall in the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, to examine just what is happening in the VICP,” said Canary Party President Jennifer Larson. “We are eager for Congress and the American people to see just how far the program has strayed from what it was intended to be when Congress put it in place in the 1980s. It has failed families and become nothing more than a tool to protect vaccine makers and cover government malfeasance in the vaccine program, to the detriment of countless children.”
Notice that the first hearing has been redefined. It wan’t about autism. I suspect in her view it never was. And that is sad. Last year’s hearing and the proposed hearing this year are about vaccines.
Last year’s hearing was preceded by donations from Gary Kompothecras (a Florida chiropractor) to Congressman Issa. Mr. Kompothecras was pictured at the hearing. If internet reports are to be believed, it appears that Mr. Kompothecras is part of the groups that split after the hearing last year. He has not donated this year to Congressman Issa or others on the committee. He and his wife did donate last year, about the time that it was reported that Congressman Issa agreed to hold the hearing.
If the buzz is correct, a hearing will be held soon. It won’t be about autism (and, thus, parents can be in the spotlight without sharing it with those inconvenient autistics). But, as we’ve seen, last year’s hearing wasn’t about autism either, right?
Did last year’s hearing have any impact on the lives of autistics? Can I say that my kid will have a better future because of that hearing? No. Absolutely not. Has congressman Issa joined the Congresional Autism Caucus? No. Has he sponsored or supported autism-relevant legislation? No. We have three bills, stalled in committee, one of which is a vaccine-study bill. None have his support.
And this year’s hearing will be even less relevant.
By Matt Carey