BILL THOMAS: Denies Relationship With Health Care Lobbyist
Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), the House's "leading Republican strategist on Medicare" and Deborah Steelman, "one of the health care industry's most prominent lobbyists," each issued statements Monday, asserting that they had not become involved in an inappropriate personal relationship, the Los Angeles Times reports. A California paper, the Bakersfield Californian, first reported on the alleged relationship (Anderson, 6/27). The Californian reported that the situation "raises serious conflict-of-interest questions because [Steelman's] clients have a major stake in Thomas' work" on prescription drug relief, Medicare reform and other health care issues. Thomas is the chief architect of the GOP's Medicare prescription drug plan that the House will vote on this week (Pollard, Bakersfield Californian, 6/25). Thomas said of the allegations, "I have never traded a public responsibility for a personal one and I never will," adding, "Any personal failures of commitment or responsibility to my wife, family or friends are just that, personal." For her part, Steelman said, "The insinuations in the Bakersfield newspaper are repulsive. To suggest that I would stoop to an 'inappropriate relationship' to achieve legislation is repugnant and sexist." Steelman added that she has "often met with Thomas in a professional capacity in discussions about Medicare reform" (Los Angeles Times, 6/27). The Californian had quoted sources who said Thomas' chief of staff, Cathy Abernathy, had leaked information about the alleged relationship. But Abernathy denied the report Sunday, saying that the "personal information attributed to me by 'anonymous parties' is a complete fabrication." She added, "The people who fed the Californian bad information don't want to see bipartisan reform pass in a Republican Congress. It's sad that a California reporter got caught in this trap" (Mayer, Bakersfield Californian, 6/25).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.