Over $20k in donations to Congressman Posey and now people expect another hearing

7 Feb

Remember a few years back when Representative Darrell Issa held autism hearings? One in 2012 and one in 2014. As chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, he was apparently able to make that happen, even if he didn’t show up for the second hearing. It turned out that groups that promote the failed idea that vaccines caused an autism epidemic had done a fair bit of lobbying, including getting Andrew Wakefield (of all people) to meet with and dine with the one or more members of congress. And then there’s the fact that at least one activist in the vaccines-cause-autism cause had made rather significant ($40,000) donations to congressman Issa.

Even with the heavy lobbying and donations, neither Oversight hearing was quite what these groups wanted. The first only one of their advocates testified, and in the second hearing none. These lobbying groups did produce video clips of members of congress grilling members of the CDC, especially Congressman Posey reading questions and statements apparently prepared for him by these lobbyists. These video clips have been useful for these groups but, seriously, a full on congressional hearing to produce YouTube videos for the donors to the chairman? That’s the sort of wasted resources that Oversight is supposed to prevent, not create.

Last fall many of those pushing the idea of vaccine causation really wanted to use the leaks by CDC researcher William Thompson to get another congressional hearing. A hearing that would focus on vaccines (since the first two hearings held by Oversight did not). Or, to put it simply, one which could stay in their control. That didn’t happen, but that doesn’t mean people have given up hope for a hearing.

It has become clear over the past year that whatever influence these lobbying groups had gained with Representative Issa, that influence had waned. The second Oversight hearing included no public representatives and Mr. Issa was not even present. Further, fundraising efforts no longer focus on Mr. Issa.

Attention has shifted to Mr. Posey, a representative from Florida. A fundraiser was held for Mr. Posey last year.

A recent story claims that a new hearing is in the works. This time in House Science Committee. Coincidentally, Mr. Posey sits on the Science Committee. Mr. Posey has been a friend to the vaccines-cause-autism groups for some time, and sat in on the Oversight hearings. Last year’s fundraiser was an interesting event for many reasons. First, Mr. Posey was in a very safe race, so he wasn’t really in need of donations to win. Second, the people putting on the fundraiser were mostly (if not all) from outside of the Congressman’s district. Third, one of the primary people organizing the fundraiser was the same person who had donated about $40,000 to Congressman Issa.

Let’s take a look again at the people listed as donors for that fundraiser:

Jennifer Larson of the Canary Party and Health Freedom
Sallie Bernard of Safeminds and Autism Speaks
JB Handley of Generation Rescue
Tony Lyons of Shy[sic] Horse Publishing
Barry Segal of Focus Autism
Mark Blaxill of the Canary Party and Health Freedom
Dr. Gary Kompothecras
Teri Costigan

I went to the Federal Elections Commission website and OpenSecrets.org and checked for donations from these individuals to Congressman Posey.

Jennifer Larson, 3 donations for $5200 total in 2014

Sallie Bernard, $1000

JB Handley, $1000

Barry Segal, $2600

Mark Blaxill $5000

Gary Kompothecras and his wife, $5200

If Terri Costigan is Theresa Costigan, then here’s another $1000

I did not find donations from Mr. Lyons

That’s about $21,000.

Of course there could be more donations other than the people advertised before the event. For example, there are also two donations from a Mary Lang, totaling $5000. There is a Mary Lang from the same city who runs an autism school and who has spoken at the AutismOne parent convention (AutismOne promotes heavily the idea that autism and vaccines are linked).

If those donations are also part of this fundraising effort, that would bring the total accounted for so far to $26,000.

If you go to the story that is claiming a hearing is in the works, it does appear to be still in the “wishful thinking” stage. The article doesn’t give any recent quotes from Mr. Thompson and quotes a staffer for Congressman Posey as stating “We’re working with the Science Committee to get a hearing”.

Representative Posey is on the Science Committee and the Subcommittee on Oversight. And people interested in a Congressional hearing organized a fundraising event for the representative in an election year where he was an almost sure win. And collected over $20,000 in that event.

Are the fundraiser and hopes for a hearing connected? Or is it just a coincidence that people flew from all over the U.S. to attend a fundraiser dinner in Florida and later push for a hearing in that same Representative’s committee? Decide for yourself. I don’t see it as coincidence.

I find a few more points worth noting. First, Generation Rescue and the Age of Autism blog put out a call for people to show support for Representative Posey. The donation link given states that:

Federal law requires us to use our best efforts to collect and report the name, mailing address, occupation and name of employer for each individual who contributions exceed $200 in an election cycle

Records available on FEC.gov and OpenSecrets.org show donations as small as $25 per individual.

I don’t see a large influx of donations in the record for Mr. Posey. I don’t see donations from, say Jenny (Jennifer) McCarthy of Generation Rescue nor Candace McDonald, executive director for GR. I don’t see donations from the bloggers at the Age of Autism. Perhaps I missed them or perhaps they were too small to be recorded. Or perhaps there just wasn’t a large turnout. There isn’t a large number of donors from out of state around the time of the Age of Autism call. Out of state donors would indicate that a nationwide call had an effect.

I also didn’t see any indication that many people showed up for the fundraiser outside of the group noted in the pre-event publicity.

The last point I find interesting is this: Congressman Posey is still not a member of the Congressional Autism Caucus. Nor have I seen him act as a strong supporter of autism related legislation.


By Matt Carey

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49 Responses to “Over $20k in donations to Congressman Posey and now people expect another hearing”

  1. Narad February 7, 2015 at 22:23 #

    Last fall many of those pushing the idea of vaccine causation really wanted to use the leaks by CDC researcher William Thompson….

    “Leaks”?

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 8, 2015 at 00:12 #

      I’m don’t consider Mr. Thompson a “whistleblower” and I will not give that label more legitimacy. Of course, leaks implies to some a wrongdoing as well.

      He appears to have given information to Mr. Hooker. Also documents, which would be a rather problematic action if true. He also seems to have encouraged Mr. Hooker to take a rather reckless approach.

      • Narad February 9, 2015 at 07:35 #

        He appears to have given information to Mr. Hooker. Also documents, which would be a rather problematic action if true.

        My recollection is that Hooker obtained the data set from the CDC.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 9, 2015 at 15:07 #

        There is a dataset that Mr Hooker obtained just like any researcher could–by applying to the CDC for access.

        The videos he and Mr. Wakefield produced show other documents. The release of such documents, if that did occur, would be very much against the terms of his employment from what I understand.

      • findlaymarketblog February 9, 2015 at 15:16 #

        If they were against the terms of his employment, God bless him for finally having the courage to take a personal risk for the sake of millions of innocent children. This is why he is now protected under Obama’s whistleblower legislation — if he has to break the terms of his employment in order to expose medical fraud, then he should be protected and not held to the terms of his employment contract.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 9, 2015 at 21:27 #

        None of the documents shown in the videos do anything to disclosing wrongdoing. Providing documents to someone outside of a government agency is a pretty serious issue, and doing this without actually accomplishing something that is in the public’s interest is just more problematic.

        Also, there are procedures for one to “blow the whistle”.

        Federal civilian employees have many options to disclose wrongdoing. They can:
        tell a supervisor or someone higher up in management,
        report the issue to their agency’s Office of Inspector General (OIG),
        file a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC).

        There is no evidence that Mr. Thompson attempted to pursue this within the appropriate channels. Also, “calling a person known to be actively engaging in a campaign to harm public health” is not on the list.

      • findlaymarketblog February 10, 2015 at 01:07 #

        Wow, you’re seriously going to quote me the traditional procedures for blowing the whistle, and suggest that he should have done this? Management at the CDC told the research team to massage the data, so that clearly was going to go nowhere. So he did the right thing, and hopefully the protections that Obama has provided will help him.

        BTW, I put a call in to Posey’s office today to see whether he will be testifying. They should be calling back tomorrow, so I’ll let you know.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 10, 2015 at 01:18 #

        So, he was unable to take this outside of CDC, to the HHS Office of the Inspector General?
        https://oig.hhs.gov/fraud/whistleblower/

        Note, HHS, outside of CDC.

        What protections has Obama provided to him? The recent article states “Obama Administration”. Not Obama. Second, they give no evidence of any special protection. Here’s the thing: all employees have whistleblower protection. That means that they can not be retaliated against if they bring up something. It is not “immunity”. The use of “immunity” was clearly inserted there to imply that there are criminal acts.

        Here’s the thing. Misters Wakefield and Hooker submitted a complaint to CDC. If anything had progressed on that, say to the point of deciding this were criminal and someone needed immunity, believe me we would have heard.

        Lastly, unless a hearing is calendared, one can’t say that he’s testifying. It isn’t up to Mr. Posey.

      • findlaymarketblog February 9, 2015 at 11:44 #

        Hooker did receive the data from the CDC — through the Freedom of Information Act. The CDC had refused to release the data for a decade in order to prevent anyone from repeating the study, since their findings were not replicable with the full data set. It was an egregious violation to not release that data. Hooker actually got to know Thompson over the course of a decade — he had been in communication with him since, I believe, as early as 2002 — even before the study in question was published — because he had many, many FOIA requests going on.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 9, 2015 at 15:04 #

        You make multiple errors.

        That would be incorrect. He obtained the dataset for his paper by applying for it. Just like any researcher with the correct credentials can do. The CDC has made this dataset and others available for public use.

        No one had asked for access to the dataset before Mr. Hooker, so one can’t say that the CDC had refused to release it. They had the application information on their website for years and only had recently taken it down due to lack of interest.

        “Hooker actually got to know Thompson over the course of a decade — he had been in communication with him since”

        Mr. Hooker had been in a call with Mr. Thompson years back and then hadn’t had contact with him until about 10 months prior to the release of the paper. This per Mr. Hooker’s own statements.

        Given that Mr Hooker is now claiming that he made his phone calls by driving 2 hours each way to Oregon, I don’t think he got to know Mr. Thompson all that well.

        Mr. Hooker would not have been in contact with Mr. Thompson over the FOIA requests. That’s not how FOIA works.

      • findlaymarketblog February 9, 2015 at 15:13 #

        I will have to check on what you say for veracity. I do recall Hooker saying in a presentation that he had communicated with Thompson over the course of those years. The fact that he hadn’t spoken with him for 10 months is immaterial, and it doesn’t negate the fact that he knew Thompson from repeated contact. I didn’t suggest that they were intimate friends, Hooker didn’t either.

        Regarding the meetings, I thought that Hooker said that he drove to Oregon and met Thompson in his hotel room. I will double check on that fact also. He may also have recorded phone calls, but I do recall him saying that they met in a hotel room. But, even if he didn’t meet him in person, it’s irrelevant. The point is that there was prior communication between Hooker and Thompson, and it was repeated over time. So that Thompson obviously felt comfortable enough about reaching out to Hooker to share the information he shared with him.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 9, 2015 at 21:24 #

        I recall him saying that he had spoken with Thompson years ago, but then nothing for the intervening years until about 10 months before the paper was published (and about 11 months before the paper was retracted).

        Mr. Hooker claims to have recorded phone calls. He was criticized for doing that secretly and it was pointed out by many that it is illegal in California to do so.

        The recent article trying to rebrand and resurrect this story includes the statements about phone calls and Oregon.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 9, 2015 at 15:14 #

        To add,

        Mr. Hooker had contact with Mr. Thompson in a phone call early on. But, the CDC stopped direct communication due to the conflict imposed by Mr. Hooker’s lawsuit against HHS (which runs CDC). So, again, there wasn’t a decade of communcation between the two.

        One can get all of this from listening to Mr. Hooker and reading the documents he obtained through FOIA.

      • Lawrence February 9, 2015 at 15:20 #

        Another example of an anti-vax individual who merely repeats what they see on notorious anti-vax websites and Facebook pages – which usually bear little relation to actual events or facts.

        I do find it uproariously funny that the “sooper-sekret” information the Hooker got from the CDC had been publicly available for years…..it makes a good story for Hooker to tell, but is blatantly untrue once you examine the facts and reality.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 9, 2015 at 18:03 #

        Mr. Hooker has given talks on his “reanalysis” of the Price study. He tells his audience that he got the information from a report obtained by congressional request (or something along those lines). Essentially Posey or someone asked the CDC for information and this report was included.

        I always thought he was inflating the story–trying to make it sound like a bigger deal than it was. I thought this because the reports he refers to are online. They are cited in the Price study and have been in the public domain since. But, then I found a copy of these congressionally obtained reports online (a shot of truth dot org or some such place). He really didn’t know that this info was available. He had to wait for a member of congress to supply him with the reports.

        Here are those reports.
        http://www.abtassociates.com/reports/Aut_Tech_Report_Vol1_090310.pdf
        http://www.abtassociates.com/reports/Aut_Tech_Report_Vol2_090310.pdf

        As the old saying goes, there’s more politics in science than science in politics. Much of Mr. Hooker’s work is politics, not science.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 8, 2015 at 00:16 #

      I am open to a different word or phrase than “leaks” or “whistleblower”.

      • findlaymarketblog February 9, 2015 at 18:13 #

        On that first report, who is ABT Associates? What is that first report, and why is ABT Associates publishing it? And if that report indeed contains the data, on which page in that first report do we see the 340% increase that Hooker shows in the data that he obtained?

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 9, 2015 at 20:09 #

        Abt associates is the independent group contracted to perform a large thimerosal/autism risk study
        http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2010/09/13/peds.2010-0309.abstract

        Abt then published larger reports with more data.

        This is a different study than the DeStefano study on MMR and autism that Mr. Hooker used as a basis for a poor re-analysis.

        Actually, if you want to see an increased risk, you should check the published DeStefano study. It includes that. Not specifically calling out African American males, but in the unadjusted analyses, for the total sample and for boy’s alone, an increased calculated risk was presented.

        For a decade, Brian Hooker, Andrew Wakefield and the rest didn’t care. Funny that.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 9, 2015 at 20:15 #

        It is worth noting that in the Price study, William Thompson is the second author. William Thompson is the first author on a similar study on thimerosal, but one that did not explore autism.
        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17898097

        It is also worth noting that Mr. Hooker’s primary interest is in thimerosal and autism. This is the basis for his claim in the vaccine court.

        Considering those two points, it is very interesting that Mr. Hooker presented no information that there was anything the least bit questionable about the thimerosal studies. Mr. Thompson and Mr. Hooker were in discussions for 10 months, and perhaps since the announcement last year. Mr. Thompson’s expertise in this field is precisely aligned with Mr. Hooker’s interest. And nothing from the so-called “whistleblower” on thimerosal and autism.

        Tells me that those studies are solid.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 9, 2015 at 20:38 #

        and by solid, I mean solid to the point that even Mr. Hooker shouldn’t be able to spin a story about how they are “fraudulent”.

        Shouldn’t. But he did.

  2. findlaymarketblog February 7, 2015 at 23:36 #

    Gasp — $21,000 donated to a Congressman by the “vaccines cause autism” groups. I wonder how much money the pharma companies spend on lobbying. Do you have any idea, Matt? If not, you might want to practice some real journalism and put the same amount of effort into blowing the whistle on that.one. My educated guess is that the amount of money, you will discover, will make your little article here an embarrassment to you.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 8, 2015 at 00:06 #

      Feel free to report back here how much the pharma companies spend on lobbying. It’s a large amount. Based on your comment, it appears that it is the amount, not the fact of influence buying that is the issue? If you want to talk about embarrassing positions, that’s the one I see here.

      • Brad December 30, 2015 at 22:35 #

        You’re right. It is a large amount.
        I do not understand how your position holds any water “influence buying…is the issue.” You buy influence through large amounts of money. In fact, that is the entire position of your article (but it seems like you may have lost touch with that idea somewhere along the way). Your opinion has significantly tainted your credibility as a journalist.
        Top 5 vaccine companies by revenue: 1) Sanofi 2) Merck 3)GlaxoSmithKline 4) Pfizer 5) Novartis
        So lets look at the smallest contributor first, to put this $20K into perspective! Novartis contributed $206,916 from year 2015-2016. The largest (Sanofi) donated $503,972 in the same year. I would love to list the rest, but I think you get the point. http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/indus.php?ind=h04 …just in case anyone wants to call into question the validity of the numbers.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) December 31, 2015 at 00:06 #

        Let’s look at this in perspective–people are directly donating to a member of congress who is not in their district with the expectation of a quid pro quo.

        The rest of your comment is a straw man/smoke screen. Yep, big companies (and not just pharmaceutical companies) make big donations and get influence. Never said anything else. Your implication to the contrary more than significantly taints your credibility. You basically are saying, “some attempts to buy influence are OK. As long as the dollar value is small”.

        Now, let’s take on the “small” part of your failed argument.

        Sanofi donated $503,972. Wow! That’s so much bigger than $20k.

        How many people are there in the legislature? 535 (100 Senate, 435 Congress). $500k/500 is $1k per legislator. Compare that to $20k given to one legislator and tell me about the attempt to purchase influence.

      • Brad December 31, 2015 at 17:00 #

        Your inconsistent arguments don’t hide well behind your ad hominem reply. Is my assumption, after all of that, really to think that pharmaceutical companies split the contribution evenly among all 535 legislators? The money is divided among those who they believe will help them gain political favor.
        You misunderstand my argument entirely. You think my point is “some attempts to buy influence are OK. As long as the dollar value is small.” If you have no problem with lobbying, then you should have no problem with the $20K. But don’t pretend like pharmaceutical companies spread their money out. Some legislators receive more than others on a yearly basis. In fact, Senator Richard Pan in CA is carrying the vaccination bill and received over $95,000 from pharmaceutical companies between 2013-2014. More than $2 million was given to legislators in the same year.
        The entirety of your article is so inconsistent, I don’t think you even know what it is supposed to be about anymore. You just really support vaccinations, you dislike “anti-vaxers” and you want to immediately dismiss the idea that some research may upset the standard vaccine programs that we have developed.
        If there is a possible link, it needs to be explored scientifically. You don’t throw it out on the basis of one senator that received political donations, especially when many others have received significantly more from pharmaceutical companies.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) January 1, 2016 at 19:59 #

        There is no ad-hominem here. You are doing the ironic ad-hominem attack of claiming I am doing so. Cheap debate trick. If you had facts you would use them.

        I don’t misunderstand your argument at all. Your argument is nonsense. It is you who doesn’t understand.

        So, how much money did Posey get? How much does the average legislator get from, say, Sanofi? I already did the math. Thing is you got caught by someone who can actually think through the situation.

        Oh, geez, you are one of those people pissed off at Pan? Wow. You guys did more damage to your own case than any group I’ve seen in recent history. Seriously.

        “If there is a possible link, it needs to be explored scientifically. ”

        Possible link to what? I assume you mean autism. It HAS been explored scientifically. The way you phrase the question just demonstrates that you are either ignorant, a denialist or both.

        You jerks who took on SB2877 sucked resources away from actual advocacy efforts here. My guess is you don’t even know what I am talking about.

        Do you have any link to the disability community or are you just another vaccine antagonist who uses my community as their weapon of attack? Because those groups disgust me. They show zero respect for our communities and give nothing back.

        Now you come here to a disability focused website and want to spread your misinformation.

        If you are just someone focused on vaccines. Go away. Seriously. Go do your damage elsewhere. I am not here to give a platform to people who abuse my community.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 8, 2015 at 00:35 #

      By the way, I have no problem with lobbying in general.

      I lobbied the members of the Oversight and Government Reform committee, organizing a fax in campaign to get them to include autistic voices in the first hearing. Didn’t cost anything as I already had the resources.

      I’ve done other projects as well.

      Buying influence, that I haven’t done.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 8, 2015 at 00:38 #

        It’s worth noting that I use “lobbying” in a very loose sense as neither I nor the individuals mentioned above are actual lobbyists.

      • findlaymarketblog February 8, 2015 at 02:17 #

        You sound like a real tool.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 8, 2015 at 04:01 #

        That’s all you can say? Not even description of how you came to this conclusion? Just “you sound like a real tool”?

        OK, I’ve been called worse. And hit-and-run commenters are pretty common. Come back some day when you want to actually discuss topics.

      • lilady February 8, 2015 at 08:15 #

        It reads like to me, that the only tool is the spamming Findlay Markets guy.

  3. shay February 8, 2015 at 05:07 #

    I don’t think any politician is going to ask for a hearing on the dangers of vaccines right now.

    • lilady February 8, 2015 at 08:17 #

      I would agree with you…but then we’re talking about the dullest tool in the shed, Congressman Bill Posey

  4. findlaymarketblog February 10, 2015 at 01:09 #

    And, actually, you’re wrong, the documents revealed do suggest wrongdoing. They indicate the extent to which he was reacting to his managers’ desire to have these horrible findings suppressed.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 10, 2015 at 01:34 #

      Really? They suggest a scientific disagreement. How serious that is can be debated. But scientific disagreements are not considered to be violations of research ethics.

      Horrible findings? They are incredibly weak. I do believe they should have been discussed in detail, and not just the way they were. The original study did show a calculated increased risk for the unadjusted sample and the boys in the unadjusted sample. Mr. Wakefield and Mr. Hooker didn’t care for 10 years about that.

  5. findlaymarketblog February 10, 2015 at 01:24 #

    I get the sense that you’d make a phenomenal bureaucrat — you should consider it. I’m sure you’d thrive in such an environment.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 10, 2015 at 01:31 #

      Actually I’d hate it. That’s why I do what I do.

      I’ve responded to your comments respectfully and with substantive replies. And you respond with this?

      • findlaymarketblog February 10, 2015 at 01:32 #

        See, you can’t even sense another’s humor. Bureaucrat!

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 10, 2015 at 01:36 #

        Objectively, it wasn’t funny.

  6. Kathy Sayers Hennessy February 10, 2015 at 19:09 #

    Fascinating. Great info Sullivan. I especially like the chat in comments about the how Thompson is not blowing any whistles and how the so-called Obama admin immunity new from Marcella is bunk. Thanks for a good read.

  7. arfate February 20, 2015 at 03:49 #

    Is there anyone here up to speed on campaign finance law post – Citizens United? I’m less familiar with current law, but using the address books/ email lists of tax exempt nonprofits (GR, Safeminds, Autism Action Network) seems hella illegal. As does Issa’s $40k tribute – isn’t that way over spending limits? Or are those contributions considered “bundled?” Regardless, the whole thing is sooo skeezy.

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