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The Stench Of Impropriety: Tom Harkin, Al Franken, Herbalife International, And The F.R.E.E.D Act (Part 1 of 2)

The Stench Of Impropriety: Tom Harkin, Al Franken, Herbalife International, And The F.R.E.E.D Act (Part 1 of 2)

Harkin and Herbalife

Every reasonable American with a pulse knows that much of what goes on in the undercurrents of Washington D.C is disturbing. It is not often, however, that one proposed piece of legislation encapsulates nearly everything that is wrong in our Federal Government, unfortunately that is exactly the case with Senate file 481.

The name of this bill is the Federal Response to Eliminate Eating Disorders, or the F.R.E.E.D Act. It is sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), co-sponsored by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and was introduced in the Senate on March 3, 2011. If you have ever wondered what Tom Harkin and Al Franken have been up to lately you are about to find out not just the what, but more appallingly the why.

Before examining the wide ranging particulars of the bill, let us first take a look at a very suspicious factor in its origin— a company called Herbalife International.

Without getting too far into the maze of legislative language (though you are welcome to do just that by following the links), what this bill does is continue the re-write of The Social Security Act of 1935 that The Patient Protection And Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) began in 2010.

Specifically the F.R.E.E.D Act does the following:

• Redefines what our tax dollars can pay for by amending Sect.1905 of the Social Security Act (SSA) to add coverage for—screening, counseling, and non-prescription drugs used in the treatment of eating disorders.

• Amends Sect. 1927(d)(2)(A) of the SSA by removing the restriction that specifically excludes payment for—“agents when used for anorexia, weight loss, or weight gain”.

• Though it was passed only last year, amends Obamacare to include coverage for eating disorders treatment.

The effective implication of this, among other things, is that it would authorize Medicare and Medicaid pay-outs for over-the-counter drugs used in the “treatment” of eating disorders. For a private company which sells such products this change in the law would represent nothing less than the Holy Grail—government purchased sales.

In what would be a remarkable coincidence, Tom Harkin’s biggest political contributor over the last 22 years is a company called Herbalife International. Not an agro products company, an insurance provider, or a labor union as you may suspect, Herbalife International is in fact a global nutrition and supplement company that specializes in “healthy” weight loss.

Herbalife International earns the distinction of becoming Harkin’s biggest single donor by having given him a total of $137,916.00 since 1989. Between the years 2005-2010 they gave Harkin $55,606.00, a display of generosity which came after already having donated over $40,000.00 to him in the 2004 campaign cycle alone.

Some investigating shows that not only does Herbalife International have a wide range of products directly or indirectly tied to weight gain, weight loss, and eating disorders, but that the issue is one of a deeply personal nature for the company. Herbalife was founded in 1980 by a man named Mark Hughes, now deceased, whose inspiration for starting the company was his belief that his mother died of an eating disorder and an “unhealthy approach to weight loss”.

While there is no way of knowing what they have in the future pipeline, the products they currently offer that directly relate to eating disorders include Zinc and Thiamine B1 supplements. The medical link lies in the fact that a person suffering from an eating disorder, by nature, has deficiencies of these compounds in their system, which supplements can effectively correct.

Illustrating the connection between nutritional supplements and eating disorder treatment is a report released by the Royal College of Psychiatrists in London entitled “Guidelines for the nutritional management of anorexia nervosa”. One of many similar studies, it recommends that in planning the diet for a patient with anorexia, particular attention should be given to “the need for long-term, well balanced vitamin and mineral supplementation”. It goes on to say that “A significant proportion of patients with anorexia nervosa are deficient in thiamine, and the increase in carbohydrate metabolism that occurs during re-feeding may exhaust inadequate thiamine reserves. The use of prophylactic thiamine supplements in oral form is recommended for in-patients and those undergoing rapid weight gain”.

In addition to the already defined role that supplements have in treating eating disorders with Zinc and Thiamine, there are ongoing studies looking at whether the lack of these in the body may actually cause the onset of eating disorders, opening the possibility that in the future such supplements may also be used in preventative care.

By all appearances what we have here is a major global company giving a U.S Senator over $90,000.00 in a seven year period and then being the beneficiary of a sweeping piece of legislation, sponsored by said Senator, which authorizes our government to pay for the company’s products.

It would be a mistake to conclude this is a simple case of a company giving a legislator money to be their puppet; in fact Tom Harkin has been one of Capital Hill’s loudest advocates for alternative medicine and prevention for 20 years now. In 1992 he was primarily responsible for the Office of Alternative Medicine coming into existence, and in early 2009 said the following:

On several occasions, I have laid down a public marker, saying that if we pass a bill that greatly extends health insurance coverage but does nothing to create a dramatically stronger prevention and public health infrastructure and agenda, then we will have failed the American people.

Clearly he feels Obamacare has “failed the American people” and is proposing this bill to make it even more inclusive and expansive, which is certainly his prerogative.

Whether or not he has a genuine conviction on this issue, and frankly I believe he does, is beside the point. What is at issue here is that his largest political donor stands to make gigantic amounts of money should legislation that he proposed be signed into law.

Though we have allowed and accepted the institutional development of these types of relationships and practices, we as the American public have a right to know about them when they occur.

Note: Tom Harkin’s Washington D.C office was contacted for comment and clarification regarding this story.  So far they have provided neither, as soon as they do this story will be updated.

This is only one of many disturbing elements of this legislation. Here is part two entitled: “The Stench of Impropriety: Your Tax Dollars, Your Body Image, and The Government (Part 2 of 2)”, where many other provisions of this bill are examined, including Al Franken’s involvement.

The Stench Of Impropriety: Tom Harkin, Al Franken, Herbalife International, And The F.R.E.E.D Act (Part 1 of 2)

Hitting A Moving Target

So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss.

—Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The two major forms of Republicanism each have a doctrine that is tied to actual documents. Religious social conservatives have The Bible, while fiscal and Constitutional conservatives have the Constitution. It is safe to say that the vast majority of Republicans have their political tenants supplied by one, if not both, of these documents. This type of textual anchor is a positive philosophically and morally but in a strictly political sense can be a liability. The resulting positives are what tend to be deep, time-tested convictions, stability, certainty and, when used, an effective measuring stick for candidates in primaries. However, in our current event driven and largely politically uninformed society the negative is that this rigidness makes it nearly impossible to adapt positions to individual situations and use current events for maximum political gain.

This is a problem that the modern day liberal Democrat will not have anytime soon. They indeed stand in the starkest of contrast. Having left the Constitution behind decades ago, they move forward with no defined doctrine. No set of black and white documents that create, inform, or guide their ideology (and don’t even try to give me the party platform). This creates a situation in which changing party leadership sets an evolving standard as to what defines a Democrat. This not only allows them to easily tailor their political message to what they perceive to be popular at the moment, but grants them the option of playing the role of “lifeguard” and coming to the citizenry’s rescue with politically crafted legislation.

This, in tandem with the current perception that this is indeed the role of government, is extremely effective but thankfully also comes with disadvantages. First, the party can more easily be driven to the fringes as their lack of rigid philosophical boundaries allows a handful in the leadership of a given generation to rather rapidly change their party’s principles. A quick look at their current leadership and the top three finishers in the last two Presidential primaries reveal not a single, even remotely, moderate candidate and safely proves this point. Second, though both unfortunate and ironic, their biggest roadblock is that given our current level of debt the Government simply can not sustain an ever increasing financial role. As long as our citizens are concerned with the debt, and according to the most recent polling all but 24% are, their “lifeguard” advantage will be minimized. Though these points make it likely that due to their intensely progressive ideology they will drive themselves off a cliff, in the short term this chameleon like flexibility to adapt to changing realities is a net advantage and one that must be tactically dealt with. What has been created here is the political equivalent of a moving target and the challenge facing Republicans is developing a sound defensive strategy. Sounds strange to say, but the question is: how does one turn the political disadvantage of having and following defined ideological principles and a narrow view of the Federal government’s role into an advantage?

What should be done from a focus standpoint, and what is currently working, is a continued, exhaustive fixation on deficit spending and our National debt. What should be added is further concentration on the ineffectiveness of the Stimulus Package, especially considering the Democrats just quietly tried to procure another $50 billion in borrowed money to funnel to the States. The Recovery Act is not only recent, relatively uncomplicated, and directly tied to the current Liberal leadership, but proves rather blatantly that even with a trillion dollars the Federal Government is not capable, nor was it designed to, “fix” these types of problems. Simply put Republicans can not afford such an expensive and unnecessary tragedy to occur without it being politically fatal to the Democrats.

Legislatively two things come to mind. First, the already passed PayGo legislation needs to be hammered on and strictly followed by Republicans no matter the circumstance. In many ways this was a gift given by the Democrats, as it fits the Republican message, while almost certainly being a check written for political reasons to the American people that Liberalism will not allow them to cash. Along with this is what should be a unified, party-wide push for an Enumerated Powers Amendment. In my view this is the Republicans single best chance to not only start reigning Government back in, but also to maintain the energy of the Tea Party movement by proving that motion in their direction is both possible and something besides lip service. While the actual passage of such an amendment is an impossibility given the Republican’s current minority status, and I concede likely a long shot even with complete control of the Legislative branch, forcing the Democrats to vote down or ignore this concept would pay huge dividends now and in the future.

While any marksmen will tell you the only way to hit a moving target is to aim in front, in this case the surest place to aim is behind, and more specifically about 234 years behind. While it is certainly frustrating to watch the opposition bend and mold their positions to gain short term political support, and though it may be true in this day and age that strictly adhering to principles of limited government may at times seem like a burden, we must as Republicans resist the convenience of straying. We must be strengthened by the knowledge that in the long run, being principled and following the Constitution’s principles is always the correct answer. In those times that the temptation to deviate presents itself we can remember the Italians’ have an old saying for just such a quandary, “A burden that is chosen is not felt.”

The Stench Of Impropriety: Tom Harkin, Al Franken, Herbalife International, And The F.R.E.E.D Act (Part 1 of 2)

Levin v. Goldman: Big Solution For a Big Problem?

Crisis On Wall StreetWhen Senator Levin says “Goldman made a lot of money by betting against the mortgage market” what do we think he might have meant? Knowing some of the political philosophy of the esteemed senator from Michigan, it is obvious that his inference was that Goldman was acting in a fashion that was either illegal or immoral. How could any American institution bet against motherhood, apple pie or the American dream of universal home ownership? And certainly the notion of ”making a lot of money” is of dubious quality on its face. The Senator is literally screaming “These people are the enemy of the state, and they need to be leashed, or chained, or imprisoned, or tortured…all for the good of the system of the people.”

It is always amusing when a single statement contains such a large number of fallacies. Let us count the ways.

First, Goldman was acting in their role as an investment broker. Everything they do is essentially either a bet for or against something…or the facilitating of someone else doing the same thing. More technically, they are simply acting as brokers, and not as agents. Agents represent a buyer or seller. Brokers facilitate the transaction. This is the “market mechanism” and it is what guides the whole system of the effective allocation of resources. It is fundamental to our material progress. As significantly, if people would have actually listened to Goldman, the whole mortgage disaster might have been avoided. Starting in 2004 Goldman was very publicly saying that the US housing market was overpriced and that we were headed for real trouble. Unfortunately, too few actually listened to them, including Senator Levin. In the case of the SEC-driven synthetic CDO case, Goldman was actually not making a bet against the mortgage market…an investor was. But even if they were, it was completely their right to do so.

“But the disclosure wasn’t adequate…” Please. If you hear anyone say this just say “stop,” and remember that these things were bought (not sold) by some of the most sophisticated investors the world has ever seen. These buyers were high-powered investors looking for levels of interest unavailable in our low-interest world, and they got torched. Anyone who uses the word “disclosure” in this argument is either very poorly educated, or more likely concealing a very ugly hidden agenda. Funny, have you heard anything from the actual investors who lost all the money? Most of the money that was lost in the mortgage meltdown was not even held by the banks. Unlike the power-mongering Senator Levin however, they all know and accept the penalty for the sin of their ill-fated and over-reaching greed.

Secondly, and contrary to Mr. Levin’s fear of profit, the world has proven over and over again that without the opportunity for “profit” the world tends towards universal impoverishment. We should very quickly notice that profit is not a word to be used exclusively with respect to corporations; it is a universally human word. All of us require “profits” as a source of motivation. Mr. Levin demonizes corporate profits, but fails to recognize the evil of “government profits,” which are the desired fruits of his labors. In the case of government, the profits take the form of the shifting of funds from individuals and corporations into the pockets of government. Profits, thus defined, always flow out of a system where productivity is advancing. It has to. The only question is who gets them. Mr. Levin has decided that they should flow to him and his kind, as opposed to those with the brains and drive to actually create something of real value. Profit is virtuous. The conscription of profits by the government is the true evil. This is particularly evident in the case where the “disclosure” of the intentions of the government (think Mr. Levin) is what is so entirely deceptive and completely lacking.

Lastly, Mr. Levin effectively is saying “And what we need is a really, really, really big solution to this really, really, really big problem.” What we have in the case of the mortgage crisis is actually a really limited problem with a very large set of consequences. The failure that we experienced was a classic simultaneous failure of the banking and insurance systems resulting from too little capital required to support the levels of risks being taken. This is hardly a new problem. The current financial services bill, like the health care bill, is just an opportunistic ruse that only tangentially relates to the real problems that we face. All we need to fix the problems with mortgage-backed securities and their “derivatives” are a set of rules around the capital needed to support both their issuance and their holding. End of story. Mr. Levin actually knows this. And that is the real problem…and a crying shame.

Sophisticated systems like ours create “sophisticated solutions” to create take-overs by the government that are accepted by “We the people.” The financial services bill is sophisticated only its complexity, and has nothing to do with the problems we really face. And herein we see the real evil. Goldman is not our problem. Levin is.

Mark Rees Campaign Opens Campaign Office In West Des Moines

Mark Rees Campaign Opens Campaign Office In West Des Moines

Mark ReesThe Rees for Congress Campaign is inviting the public to join them in opening their new headquarters. A Grand Opening with light refreshments has been scheduled for the evening of Friday, March 12, 2010 from 5:30 – 7 p.m. The office is located on the NW corner of 5th St and Railroad Ave. There is ample parking along both sides of 5th Street and off-street parking is located by the Valley Junction Caboose directly east of the office.

WHAT: Rees for Congress Headquarters Grand Opening

WHERE: 100 5th St (NW corner of 5th St and Railroad Ave) West Des Moines, Iowa (map) (Parking on either side of 5th Street or by the Valley Junction Caboose directly east of the office)

WHEN: Friday, March 12, 2010 5:30 – 7 PM

COST: Free – open to public

For more information on the Rees for Congress campaign, go to or Mark Rees 4 Congress on Facebook.

The Stench Of Impropriety: Tom Harkin, Al Franken, Herbalife International, And The F.R.E.E.D Act (Part 1 of 2)

Dr. Pat Bertroche To Make It Official

patbertroche1This Friday, Pat Bertroche, whom we have mentioned here before as a Republican candidate for 3rd District US House from Iowa, will make his formal announcement of candidacy.

Pat will make his announcement at the corner of East 14th Street and Euclid in Des Moines where Younkers once had a store.

I had the opportunity to speak with Pat in August while Leonard Boswell was running a farce of a town meeting in Sigourney. As with Dave Funk, Pat seems to share many of the same conservative passions that many of us do for both addressing our fiscal mess by reducing the size of government, and some of the key social issues that have been problematic, abortion being one of them.

Pat also hosts a show called “The Reasonable Republican” on the same Des Moines Local Live internet radio station that The Conservative Reader Report can be heard on. Pat’s show is on Friday’s from 2 to 4.

Here’s Pat’s press release:

Dr. Patrick Bertroche will formally announce his campaign for Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District on Friday, December 18th, 2009, at 12pm. He has sent his FEC papers by Fed/Ex Tuesday, and the next logical step is to move forward and announce his intention to run for the 3rd District House seat.

He will announce his candidacy at E. 14th & Euclid Ave., near where the old Younkers store used to be, to illustrate the need for better infrastructure and job growth that Iowa needs for a better economy.

Dr. Pat is passionate about Iowa, and will bring a depth of knowledge and vast experience on all issues that affect Iowans, especially Medicare reimbursement and job creation for the 3rd District of Iowa. Dr. Pat plans to work closely with local and state officials to boost small business growth and job creation.

Dr. Pat LISTENS to Iowans.

For more information, you can check out his website,, you can call the campaign headquarters at 515-556-0526, or his Campaign Chairman at 515-710-0798. Email: [email protected]

You can also follow him on Twitter at PatBertroche, and on Facebook, Pat Bertroche.

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