Ebola Czar’s Lobbying Work Appears At Odds With New Role

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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New Ebola czar Ron Klain was hired to lobby on behalf of an organization that hoped to limit payouts in asbestos lawsuits and for a company that was heavily criticized for withholding an experimental drug from cancer patients.

That is curious work for a longtime Democratic operative who is also a board member on two prominent progressive organizations. And it also appears at odds with Klain’s new job as the Obama administration’s Ebola czar.

President Obama appointed Klain to the position on Friday to manage the administration’s handling of the emerging Ebola public health crisis after a series of missteps by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The choice was immediately assailed by critics who pointed out that Klain has no medical experience. The appointment was completely politically motivated, critics have claimed. Klain has served as an aide in the Clinton and Obama White Houses.

It was between those stints that Klain worked as a lobbyist at the Washington, D.C. firm O’Melveny & Myers.

According to Senate lobbying records, Klain and two others lobbied for the Coalition for Asbestos Resolution to push H.R. 1283, a bill that would cap attorneys fees in asbestos lawsuits and limit liability payouts.

A New Jersey-based roofing company, GAF Corporation, was behind the asbestos coalition, spending $7 million on the campaign, according to a Washington Post article at the time.

As Politico noted in 2008, Public Citizen, a watchdog group, called the bill “a classic example of how special interests in Washington use political contributions, high-powered lobbying and public relations firms and prestigious academics to work their will in Congress — and trample on the rights of workers and consumers in the process.”

O’Melveny & Myers was paid $80,000 for the work.

Klain was also a lobbyist for the drugmaker ImClone as it drew fire over how it distributed a promising experimental drug to desperate cancer patients.

Klain lobbied for ImClone on “compassionate use” laws which allow drug makers to provide experimental drugs to patients before FDA approval.

The company paid O’Melveny & Myers $40,000 for its work.

Out of 10,000 patient applications for the drug, C-225, ImClone handed out only 30 doses. Shortly after a congressional hearing at which ImClone’s CEO acknowledged that the company should have handled the drug allocations differently, ImClone ended its contract with O’Melveny & Myers, Politico reported.

As a White House aide in 2010, Klain signed off on President Obama’s visit to solar energy company Solyndra’s California headquarters. That appearance came back to haunt Obama after Solyndra went bankrupt even after it had been given over $530 million in federal loan guarantees. (RELATED: White House Ebola Czar Was ‘Key Player’ In Solyndra Debacle)

Klain also sits on several boards for two progressive organizations, the Center for American Progress Action Fund and Third Way, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

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