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Mike Ross


Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Arkansas's 4th district
Incumbent
Assumed office 
January 3, 2001
Preceded by Jay Dickey

In office
1991–2000

Born August 2, 1961 (1961-08-02) (age 48)
Texarkana, Arkansas
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Holly Ross
Residence Prescott, Arkansas
Alma mater University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Occupation Former Small Business Owner
Religion Methodist

Michael Avery “Mike” Ross (born August 2, 1961) is a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives representing the fourth district of Arkansas. In the 2000 election, he was the only Democrat outside of California to defeat a Republican incumbent. In the 2004 election and the 2008 election, the Republican Party did not run a challenger against him, though in 2008 he did face a Green Party candidate.

Contents

Personal and professional life

Ross was born in Texarkana, Arkansas, the son of two teachers, and he attended high school in Hope, Arkansas. He was educated at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, working his way through college as a local radio announcer. Together with his wife, Ross owned a pharmacy in Prescott, Arkansas, which they sold in May 2007. The Ross family has two children and attend the First United Methodist Church of Prescott.

Before entering the House, Ross served as Chief of staff to then Lieutenant Governor Winston Bryant from 1985 to 1989. In 1990, Ross was elected to the Arkansas State Senate becoming the legislature's youngest member at that time; he served for ten years until his election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000.

Congressional career

Ross is a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, supports embryonic stem cell research, is against gun control, and is one of the few Democratic members of Congress to earn an A+ rating from the National Rife Association's Political Victory Fund.[1][2]

Ross won a narrow victory against incumbent Jay Dickey in 2000 by portraying himself as a moderate, as is in line with the political tendencies of his district. In contrast, Dickey was seen as a controversial conservative because of his comments on stem cell research and homosexuality. Ross easily defeated Dickey in a 2002 rematch, then ran unopposed in 2004. He picked up an easy victory in the 2006 election, defeating the similarly named Republican, real estate executive Joe Ross, 75 percent-25 percent. In the 2008 election, Ross had no Republican opponent but did face Hot Springs lawyer and Green Party candidate Joshua Drake, who he beat with a decisive 87% of the vote.

Ross considered running for the position of Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman for the 110th Congress; however, he deferred to incumbent John Larson after Rahm Emanuel chose to run for caucus chair, which is the position for which Larson had been running.[3].

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Committee assignments

The Blue Dogs and health care

On June 19, 2009, Ross made clear that he and a group of other fiscally conservative, moderate Democrats, known as Blue Dog Democrats, were increasingly unhappy with the direction that health-care legislation was taking in the House. They claimed the health care reform bill was being written behind closed doors without their input and that the proposals being consider fall short in reducing costs and increasing efficiency, outlining only a fraction of what will be required to achieve a product that does not add to the deficit.[4] Ross cited, among other things, provisions that major health-care companies also strongly oppose. Ross was the guest of honor at a special "health-care industry reception," one of at least seven fundraisers for the Arkansas lawmaker held by health-care companies or their lobbyists this year, according to publicly available invitations.[5] According to Ross's Federal Election Commission Disclosure Report, which every candidate must file quarterly, eight percent (8%) of his total campaign contributions have come from the health care industry in the last election cycle (2007-8).[6]

Ross was thrust into the national spotlight on July 21 when he and a group of seven Blue Dog Democrats on Energy & Commerce bucked their party's leaders and brought the committee mark up process of H.R. 3200, America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, to a halt. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman postponed meeting publicly to discuss the health-care legislation to negotiate with the Blue Dogs, meeting privately with Ross and other members of the so-called Blue Dog Coalition, conservative Democrats who sit on the committee and could join Republicans and vote down a bill they don't like since the panel has 36 Democrats and 23. Republicans.[7]

After days of back-to-back meetings and intense negotiations into the night, four of the seven Blue Dog Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, led by Ross, said they resolved their differences with Chairman Henry Waxman of California and were able to force House leadership to agree on several provisions, namely that the full House would not vote on the legislation until at least September so lawmakers would have time to read the bill and listen to constituents. [8]

Other concessions won by Blue Dogs, which drew immediate opposition from liberals in the chamber,[9] would shave about 10 percent from the health care overhaul's $1 trillion, 10-year price tag, in part by limiting subsidies to people who are not insured. The exemption for small businesses would be doubled so that only businesses with payrolls greater than $500,000 a year would be required to offer insurance or pay a tax equivalent to 8 percent of their payroll.

Because many Blue Dogs, especially Ross, had serious concerns about the bill's potential harmful affects on rural doctors and rural hospitals, the group forced House leadership to accept that the government would negotiate rates with health care providers instead of using Medicare rates in any so-called public option. [10]

President Obama praised the efforts of the Blue Dog Coalition in a statement issued after the agreement was announced: “I'm especially grateful that so many members, including some Blue Dogs on the Energy and Commerce Committee, are working so hard to find common ground. Those efforts are extraordinarily constructive in strengthening this legislation and bringing down its cost,” the President said in a statement.[11] However, some of the concessions to Ross set off a revolt among members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, who said they feared that the public insurance plan was being weakened. “We do not support this,” said Representative Lynn Woolsey, Democrat of California, co-chairwoman of the progressive caucus. "It’s a nonstarter." [12]

After Congress' August recess, Ross announced that he could not support a bill with a Public Option.[13] In a letter to constituents, he claimed that "An overwhelming number of you oppose a government-run health insurance option, and it is your feedback that has led me to oppose the public option as well."[14] However, a Research 2000 poll, commissioned by the left-leaning group Daily Kos, found that a majority of his district actually supported a Public Option.[15] While a poll from the University of Arkansas only found support for the public option at 39 percent. [16] Ross ultimately voted against the Health Care Reform bill that passed the House on November 7, 2009[17]

2014 gubernatorial campaign

Ross is the only congressional representative of Arkansas's delegation seeking reelection in 2010. He is considered a potential gubernatorial nominee for the Democrats in 2014.[18]

ProPublica investigation

On September 22, 2009, an investigative report co-published by a New York City-based group ProPublica and the The Politico reported that in 2007, Ross was paid $420,000 for the building and lot of his family pharmacy in Prescott, Arkansas by USA Drug, a Pine Bluff, Arkansas-based pharmacy chain. The property had been assessed in 2007 by the county at $263,000; an independent appraiser hired by ProPublica put the 2009 value of the property at $198,000, although it was well into an economic recession that began in 2008.

USA Drug also paid roughly $1.2 million for related assets of the property, such as stock, and paid roughly $100,000 for a non-compete agreement. As of the date of the report, Holly Ross remained the pharmacist at Holly's Health Mart under USA Drug.[19]

Additionally, USA Drug owner Stephen L. LaFrance donated $2,300, the maximum contribution allowed, to Ross' campaign two weeks after the sale was made.[20] In two previous elections, LaFrance had supported Ross' opponent Jay Dickey, a close friend of LaFrance.[21]

According to ProPublica, Ross declined numerous requests for interviews over a two-month period to discuss the transaction in question. After the story was published, he denied that the substantial profit from the sale shaped his votes on health care issues in any way. In his response, he claimed that his office cooperated with the reporter, Marcus Stern, and derided ProPublica as a "leftist 'news' organization". He also retorted that it cost him $316,000 to build the pharmacy in 1998, so a $420,000 return more than a decade later was not substantial, in his opinion. ProPublica's editor-in-chief, Paul Steiger, pointed out that Ross's apparently low return-on-investment was irrelevant to what the property was actually assessed at in 2007, compared to how much USA Drug paid him. [22]

The premise of the reporter’s allegations focuses on the discrepancy between the assessed value of the property and the value at which the property was sold. Ross responded by saying there is a major difference between an assessment and an appraisal and the two can never be compared on equal footing. Although ProPublica had the property appraised in August 2009, Ross pointed out that an appraisal can only be used for a lending decision up to a year after completion – even ProPublica’s appraisal had an expiration date of 2010. But, in today's challenging real estate environment, Ross said a lender most likely will not even go over six months. Therefore, he argued, given the economic conditions have changed considerably since 2007 – especially in the real estate sector – one cannot compare a present-day appraisal to one conducted two years ago.

Following up on the story, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported shortly thereafter on September 23 that, “Richard Jackson, a professor of pharmacy administration at Mercer University in Atlanta and an expert in evaluating the worth of pharmacies, said the price tag for the pharmacy’s assets was ‘well within the ballpark’ of what similar pharmacies in similar communities would bring.”

The same article continued saying that Jackson agreed that the keys for the buyer of a pharmacy are those assets — such as the inventory, the fixtures and the “good will” the business has established in the community, an intangible asset “with significant value especially in a rural area.”

It quoted Jackson as saying that the price the Rosses received for the pharmacy’s assets — between $500,000 and $1 million — is “very average” and that “there’s nothing unusual about that whatsoever. I value pharmacies every day, and most are going to fall within that range.” He also commented on the noncompete agreement – standard in pharmacy sales – saying that “people come to that pharmacy not because of the bricks and mortar, but because of the pharmacist. There is a distinct and significant value to that pharmacist being there.”

That same article continued saying, “Scott Pace of the Arkansas Pharmacists Association echoed Jackson, noting that the sale of any pharmacy’s assets would take into consideration a number of factors in addition to the value of the real estate. He provided data from the National Community Pharmacists Association showing that the average independent community pharmacy had $3.6 million in sales in calendar year 2007, with an average inventory of more than $298,000.” [23]

Ross was not allowed to release certain financial figures of the sale because of a standard confidentiality agreement signed at the time of the sale. However, on September 24, 2009, Ross sent a letter to USA Drug asking them to "waive the confidentiality agreement and allow me to release financial figures related to this sale to the media upon request" stating "I have nothing to hide."

When the financial figures were released, Roby Brock of Talk Business reported that the purchase price for the assets sold by Ross to USA Drug was $724,420.10, which included buildings, inventory, prescription files, accounts receivable, goodwill and other items. Ross, his wife, and a corporate entity, Ross Pharmacy Inc., received $110,000 in the transaction as part of a 10-year non-compete agreement with $108,000 being paid to Ross’ wife, a pharmacist. The article also reported that the $2.41 per prescription price received in the sale is far below the industry standard of roughly $10 per prescription and that the land value that has been at the center of the appraisal controversy is unfair because the sale was handled two years ago before the current economic recession, which has affected land prices across Arkansas. [24]

On September 25, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported that the only other pharmacy owner in Prescott — Ross’ former political and business rival — said the deal seemed fair. All Care pharmacy owner state Sen. Percy Malone was reported to say, “I would have bought it for that." In 1992, Malone and Ross ran a spirited Democratic primary campaign against each other for the state Senate, the Democrat Gazette reported. Malone said he “didn’t see anything out of line” in the price USA Drug paid and added that since there were only two drugstores in the town of 3,686 people, the price would likely be higher than the property’s assessed value.

The same article interviewed other pharmacy owners in Arkansas who have in recent years have had similar business transactions, such as David Smith who sold Central Pharmacy in Conway to Cardinal Health Care in 2006. Cardinal subsequently sold it to the Medicine Shoppe. Smith, who manages the pharmacy said that he received at least $50,000 in a noncompete agreement that stipulated that he couldn’t work for another pharmacy within five miles for a threeyear period. Holly and Mike Ross received $110,000, but their noncompete agreement came with much more stringent terms. They agreed not to work for a competitor within 20 miles for a period of 10 years. Smith said USA Drug “got an incredible deal." That’s because, Smith said, to a great extent a pharmacy’s value is tied up in the pharmacist himself. “The store revolves around the store owner or pharmacist,” he said. “That’s the face people trust.” To illustrate how important the noncompete agreement is, he said it was a “huge” deal that LaFrance hasn’t switched signs on the front of Holly’s Health Mart. “It’s a very shrewd move on his part to have retained that name,” he said.

The same article stated that it’s also common for a pharmacy chain to pay higher than assessed property values when acquiring land and buildings. Larger chains have paid premiums for land in smaller Arkansas towns in recent years it reported. For instance, Walgreen Co., the Illinois-based drug giant, purchased 2.8 acres and a building in Wynne in 2007 for $650,000. The current value of the land, according to the Cross County assessor’s office is $145,800. The same year, the chain bought an empty 1.3-acre plot in Newport for $560,000. In 2008, the Jackson County assessor pegged the land’s value at $35,900. And in 2008, according to Garland County records, Walgreen paid $990,000 for 1.8 acres and a building that was listed with a $282,650 value. [25]

References

  1. ^ Mike Ross on the Issues
  2. ^ <Project Vote Smart
  3. ^ "House Dems strike leadership deal". November 9, 2006. http://www.hillnews.com/thehill/export/TheHill/News/Frontpage/110906/deal.html. 
  4. ^ http://www.house.gov/melancon/BlueDogs/Press%20Releases/2009-%20Blue%20Dog%20Statement%20on%20HCR%20Legislation.pdf
  5. ^ Dan Eggen (July 31, 2009). "Industry Is Generous To Influential Bloc". Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/30/AR2009073004267.html. 
  6. ^ http://query.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/cancomsrs/?_08+H0AR04038
  7. ^ Perry Bacon Jr. (July 23, 2009). "Reform Stance Puts Spotlight on Blue Dog Democrats". Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/23/AR2009072303300.html. 
  8. ^ http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/08/05/ap/preswho/main5217848.shtml
  9. ^ http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2009/07/29/ap6716914.html
  10. ^ Carolyn Lochhead (July 30, 2009). "Dem leaders, 'Blue Dogs' compromise". San Francisco Chronicle. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/07/30/MN1B1913B6.DTL. 
  11. ^ "Obama welcomes healthcare compromise among Democrats". Forbes (Thompson Reuters). July 29, 2009. http://www.forbes.com/feeds/afx/2009/07/29/afx6716133.html. 
  12. ^ Robert Pear and David M. Herszenhorn (July 29, 2009). "House Democrats End Impasse on Health Bill". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/30/us/politics/30health.html. 
  13. ^ "Blue Dog Ross comes out against Public Option". Washington Post. September 8, 2009. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/capitol-briefing/2009/09/blue_dog_ross_comes_out_agains.html. 
  14. ^ [http://voices.washingtonpost.com/capitol-briefing/2009/09/blue_dog_ross_comes_out_agains.html ", Blue Dog Ross comes out against Public Option"]. Washington Post. September 8, 2009. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/capitol-briefing/2009/09/blue_dog_ross_comes_out_agains.html. 
  15. ^ . September 17, 2009. http://www.dailykos.com/statepoll/2009/9/17/AR/377. 
  16. ^ . November 19, 2009. http://www.newsweek.com/id/224198/page/2. 
  17. ^ . November 7, 2009. http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2009/roll887.xml. 
  18. ^ Max Brantley (2010-01-05). "Jim Holt to make Senate race". Arkansas Times. http://www.arktimes.com/blogs/arkansasblog/2010/01/jim_holt_to_make_senate_race.aspx. Retrieved 2010-02-03. 
  19. ^ Marcus Stern (September 22, 2009). "Rep. Mike Ross Raises Eyebrows With Healthy Haul". The Politico. http://www.propublica.org/article/arkansas-rep-sold-family-pharmacy-to-chain-with-stake-in-health-care-922. 
  20. ^ Marcus Stern (September 22, 2009). "Rep. Mike Ross Raises Eyebrows With Healthy Haul". The Politico. http://www.propublica.org/article/arkansas-rep-sold-family-pharmacy-to-chain-with-stake-in-health-care-922. 
  21. ^ "Rep. Mike Ross Responds to ProPublica-Politico Investigation of Pharmacy Sale". ProPublica. September 22, 2009. http://www.propublica.org/article/rep-mike-ross-responds-ro-propublica-politico-investigation-of-pharmacy-922. 
  22. ^ "Rep. Mike Ross Responds to ProPublica-Politico Investigation of Pharmacy Sale". ProPublica. September 22, 2009. http://www.propublica.org/article/rep-mike-ross-responds-ro-propublica-politico-investigation-of-pharmacy-922. 
  23. ^ "2007 sale on up and up, Ross says". Arkansas Democrat Gazette. September 23, 2009. http://www2.arkansasonline.com/news/2009/sep/23/2007-sale-and-ross-says-20090923/. 
  24. ^ "ROSS REVEALS MORE DETAILS OF PHARMACY SALE TO USA DRUG". TalkBusiness.net. September 25, 2009. http://www.talkbusiness.net/Weblogs/WeblogItemDetail.aspx?WebLogItemID=166e583d-a22c-482c-a8b2-177a1cd1c7bb&WeblogID=. 
  25. ^ "Ross lays out details on sale of drugstore". Arkansas Democrat Gazette. September 25, 2009. 

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Jay Dickey
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Arkansas's 4th congressional district

2001 – present
Incumbent

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