Lobbying, donations and the Congressional Autism Hearing

5 Mar

Last year the U. S. Congressional Committee on Government Oversight and Reform held a hearing on the government’s response to the rise in autism diagnoses. One of the people at the hearing, photographed with the Focus Autism team, is “Dr. Gary”. “Dr. Gary” appears to be Gary Kompothecras, a Florida chiropractor whose chain of offices reportedly doing $70M in business annually. Kompothecras is also the parent of two autistic children and strong proponent of the idea that vaccines are responsible for the rise in autism diagnoses. Both children were petitioners to the vaccine court for autism as a vaccine injury. (Both cases were denied due to failure to prosecute. This example was under appeal during the events laid out below.)

Mr. Kompothecras has already been linked to the effort to initiate the hearing, however this from a far from reliable source. If you aren’t familiar with this gentleman, feel free to peruse his website (the link is to google cache).

Taking that source as highly questionable, consider this. He claims “Dr Gary is very influential with the Republican Party and is friends with two US Congressmen – Buchanan and Posey.

I won’t speak to “friends” or “very influential”, but I will point out that members of Congress Posey and Buchanan have received campaign donations from Mr. Kompothecras over the past few years. Here are donations from Mr. Kompothecras and Beth Kompothecras made to support Posey and Buchanan in 2008.

The unreliable source claims that Gary Kompothecras and Andrew Wakefield met with members of Congress Posey, Buchanan and Issa on May 1st. Essentially, he met with the two members with whom he had a past relationship plus the chair of the committee who was to hold the proposed hearing.

As an aside: I realize that Mr. Wakefield can spin a good yarn, good enough to take in even members of congress, who are rather too busy to check on his claims and credentials, but members of congress have health care legislative aides who should be able to offer advice on the fact that this man has been found guilty of unethical behavior and his research is, at best, fatally flawed.

That said, keep in mind that given the Kompothecras family’s support for Posey and Buchanan in the past, it isn’t surprising that they donated again in 2012. That doesn’t mean the timing is not interesting. The “Friends of Bill Posey” received donations on May 2nd (Mrs Kompothecras ) and Vern Buchanan for Congress on May 4th (Mrs. Kompothecras) and again on June 30th.

If you followed the links above, you may have noticed that the Kompothecras family also made donations to Darryl Issa, on May 14th. Congressman Issa, of course, is the chair of the committee which held the hearing. These appear to be the first donations to Mr. Issa from the Kompothecras family. Per our unreliable source, congressman Issa committed to hold hearings on May 18th, 4 days later.

Now there is nothing wrong with making political contributions. And if you look at Mr. Issa’s PAC, it is clear that he gets donations from around the country. It is also disingenuous to claim some shock that a congressional hearing involved lobbying and that donations were made in the same time frame. All three of these members of congress are honorable people. These details are, however, ones that the public has a right to know, hence the transparency laws which allowed me to find the donations.

It is worth noting that Mr. Wakefield obviously has a major personal and financial stake in seeing the vaccine discussion become publicly viable again. A factor I hope the members of congress weighed. It is also worth noting that Mr. Wakefield’s ideas on autism causation are flawed and that he was sanctioned for ethical lapses. Another factor I hope was weighed. If our unreliable source is accurate in revealing that Andrew Wakefield met with the members of Congress, I again ask, why would members of congress listen to him seriously? Frankly, if someone is lobbying congress and brings out someone with Mr. Wakefield’s history, I would be strongly disinclined to favor whatever position they brought forward.

I first heard of Mr. Kompothecras when a story came out (Crist backer Gary Kompothecras bullies Florida health officials) where Mr. Kompothecras was described as attempting to “bully” Florida’s health officials into allowing Mark and David Geier (yes, the Geiers) access to immunization records. Per the Miami New Times:

So it’s bound to turn heads when the man known to occasionally lend his private jet to the governor uses his political clout to try to bully Florida health officials into turning over scores of the state’s sealed immunization records. Especially when they’re for a father-son team, Dr. Mark and David Geier, infamous for injecting autistic children with Lupron, a drug used to chemically castrate prostate cancer patients and pedophiles.

For those unfamiliar with the Geiers, here’s the link again. It leads to the neurodiversity.com website where Kathleen Seidel’s investigations of the Geiers are laid out. Their work has been termed “uninterpretable” by the IOM and “intellectually dishonest” by the special masters of the vaccine court, to pick two out of many critiques. When they previously were given access to a different set of immunization records, they had their access cut after attempting to go beyond the approved study, including increasing the risk of breaching confidentiality.

For anyone wondering, I don’t think anything of the sort of improprieties in the Kompothecras/Crist news article are at play with the congressional hearing. I do think it is important to remind ourselves of past activities of Mr. Kompothecras to understand his approach to politics.

Having read a few “six degrees of separation” type articles online in the autism/vaccine discussion, and the reliance on one of the least reliable sources on the internet for some details, I’d be cautious about making too much out of this. But as far as details go, they are on one level rather interesting in adding to the stories which are online about how the hearings came to be. On the other hand, “wealthy person gains access to government officials and makes political donations” is rather a “dog bites man” story, isn’t it?

By Matt Carey

10 Responses to “Lobbying, donations and the Congressional Autism Hearing”

  1. GG March 5, 2013 at 15:43 #

    Great revelations. Now it all makes sense. Who was it who said we had the best democracy money can buy.

  2. lilady March 5, 2013 at 18:37 #

    I’m not placing too much emphasis on the background information provided by unreliable sources. Just after the November autism hearing, AoA’s Anne Dachel interviewed the person who claimed that he set up the agenda for the hearing. That person “bragged” that he was introduced to disgraced former medical doctor Andrew Wakefield by Mark Geier That person, along with Wakefield wined and dined Congressmen and their wives, six months before the actual Congressional autism hearing.

    I’ve had dealings with congressmen and senators and you have to “get screened” by their legislative aides, who really do question you about affiliations and the “purpose” of your meeting with their bosses. I find it disingenuous that any legislative aide would deviate from these practices and would be unaware of Wakefield’s past.

    Meanwhile, all the “key” players in the anti-vaccine movement are meeting at the Autism One conference in Chicago. A few “surprise” guests/presenters are also schedule to appear…


  3. Sullivan (Matt Carey) March 5, 2013 at 23:55 #

    Note: Some readers may be aware that there is much discussion of efforts to obtain documents and communications pertaining to mercury autism studies from a decade ago. That effort received help on April 26 when Congressman Posey requested the director of the CDC release to him a number of documents previously requested via FOIA.

    • GG March 7, 2013 at 18:19 #

      I’ll bet they won’t show anything interesting, and will be forgotten about an hour after they are released.


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