Saturday, September 24, 2005

Frist scandal

I'll be perfectly honest in that I've not thought much of Bill Frist. Literally. Coming off a clear win in the 2004 elections and with the momentum of the electorate behind him in getting the filibusters stopped in the Senate judicial confirmation process, he basically frittered away his mandate. He clearly doesn't have the reins of leadership tightly held when 7 of his fellow Republican senators decided to cut his legs out from under him. Since then, I'm afraid I haven't given him much thought at all.

Yesterday, I caught a reference of Frist being involved in a scandal. There's been so many allegations of "scandal" by the MSM where Republicans are concerned that don't pan out to be anything of import that it really didn't make much of an impression. This morning, however, over at RedState.org there was a post that called for Frist to step down. One of the reasons for that was a reference to a "personal scandal." The New York Times and Washington Post might call Frist's ordering white wine with steak a scandal, but RedState doesn't use the term lightly.

The scandal involves the fishy-smelling sale of stock from Frist's blind trust. He apparently ordered the sale of HCA, Inc. stock from the trust just before the stock price went south. The SEC is investigating but, as with any good investigation, cautions that they don't know enough yet to characterize this event as illegal or not. They're investigating. Fair enough, but then I turned to Captain's Quarters to see what's going on over there. I find this.

::::::::Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist faces a serious investigation into his finances after apparently directing the sale of stock while his assets supposedly remained in a blind trust -- and dumping family-business stock just before the bottom dropped out. Today's Page One story in the Washington Post reports that Frist specifically ordered the divestiture of family shares of the family business:::::::::

Ed Morrisey then goes on to quote both the linked article and an AP article as well. He's 110% correct about 2 things. First, the documents that have come to light to spark this investigation must be authenticated. (I'd recommend staying away from CBS for that task...) Second, if they are authentic then Frist was engaging in the very, very basic no-no of actively directing what was supposed to be a blind trust. Blind trusts are trusts set up to provide one a benefit while allowing the beneficiary no control over the management of the trust's assets. Senators and holders of higher offices (the President and Vice-President, for example) enter into blind trusts so their assets can continue to be invested while protecting everyone from allegations of conflict of interest. For that to work, the trust has to be... well, blind. He violate that basic tennet and, in the sale of a stock that suddenly dropped 9% of its value, he has given the appearance of operating on insider information. This is not good for Senator Frist. The Senator should face it: he's compromised.

Compromised senators don't manage the business of the country well and, guilty of infraction or not, Senator Frist will be even less effective as a leader than he was before. Do the right thing, Senator. Step aside and let another Republican take up the reins.