Donald Trump's choice for secretary of Health and Human Services has a hearing Tuesday
The details in a new memo have created more headaches for Tom Price
Tom Price, President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, can’t seem to shake off ethics questions.
On the eve of Price’s second confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill, Senate Finance Committee staff released a bipartisan memo to lawmakers disclosing several red flags that were raised in the course of reviewing the congressman’s tax returns and financial disclosure statements.
The document was obtained by CNN Monday night.
The accusations include Price’s alleged failure to disclose late tax payments on rental properties; undervaluing stocks he owns in a pharmaceutical company both to the committee and in his financial disclosure forms; and failure to disclose to the committee that he was previously investigated by an ethics panel for fundraising activities.
The details in the memo create more headaches for Price – a 12-year veteran of the House and an orthopedic surgeon – as he prepares for a grilling before members of the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday morning.
According to the memo prepared by the Senate Finance Committee’s staff, Price was asked in a questionnaire whether he had paid all taxes due for the past 10 years, to which he responded, “Yes.”
However, committee staff found that Price made late tax payments of almost $1,600 related to rental properties. According to the memo, Price later told the committee that he didn’t receive tax notices on time in the case of one property, and that in the case of another, that the tax notices were either not received or mailed to the wrong person.
The questionnaire also asked whether Price has ever been investigated for a breach of ethics. Price answered in the negative, despite having been investigated by the Office of Congressional Ethics for his 2009 fundraising activities. According to the memo, Price later chalked up the mistake as “an inadvertent omission.”
The case was referred to the House Ethics Committee and ultimately dismissed.
Committee staff also determined that Price had underreported the value of stocks he owns in Innate Immunotherapeutics, an Australian pharmaceutical company. Price disclosed the value of one tranche of stocks as between $50,000 to $100,000 when it was instead determined to be between $100,000 and $250,000.
According to the memo, when this error was brought to his attention, Price agreed to recalculate the value of the shares using the market value at the time that he completed the questionnaire rather than the purchase price.
Price has already been accused by Democrats of having purchased stocks in Innate Immunotherapeutics after receiving a stock tip from a colleague in the House, GOP Rep. Chris Collins.
Collins has denied that either men engaged in insider trading.
Even before Monday, Price’s confirmation process was already been marked with numerous allegations of conflicts of interest and insider trading.
This month, CNN reported that Price recently invested in a medical device manufacturer called Zimmer Biomet, before introducing a bill days later that would benefit that company. The Georgia Republican has come under fire for appearing to have invested in other healthcare firms while simultaneously working on legislation that would have affected those companies.
When he testified before the Senate Health Committee last week, Price adamantly denied any wrongdoing.
“Everything that we have done has been above board, transparent, ethical and legal,” Price said.
Price’s senior spokesman referred questions about the memo to Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee.
But the spokesman added that the nominee “takes his obligation to uphold the public trust very seriously. He has been transparent and, as a member of Congress, complied with all applicable laws and ethics.”
Julia Lawless, a spokeswoman for Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement to CNN that Price submitted committee questionnaires and other materials in “good faith.” The answers to those questionnaires and other materials were later modified once the errors were flagged.
“Dr. Price’s file is now complete, and to meet demands of Committee Democrats, they now include additional information that is usually kept confidential,” Lawless said. “Chairman Hatch appreciates Dr. Price’s efforts to work with the multiple and complicated requests as we move the consideration of his nomination forward.”
While both the Senate Health and Finance committees hold hearings with Price, it is the Finance panel that will hold a vote to advance Price’s nomination to the full Senate.