This blog and many other blogs and websites reported last year that then-Majority Leader Bill Frist was being investigated on insider-trading charges. It’s now over and Frist has been cleared, the Washington Post reports:
Ending an investigation that clouded the tenure of former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, federal prosecutors have decided not to file insider-trading charges against the Tennessee Republican for his sales of stock in a family-owned chain of hospitals.
The U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York and Securities and Exchange Commission staff sent Frist letters last week signaling that they had closed their joint, 18-month investigation. The letters essentially cleared him of wrongdoing.
Frist said in a statement that he “acted properly” and that his only reason for selling stock in his trust accounts was to “eliminate the appearance of a conflict of interest.”
“I’ve always conducted myself according to the highest ethical standards in both my personal and public life, and my family and I are pleased that this matter has been resolved,” Frist said.
The stock probe had dogged Frist, a prominent Nashville heart surgeon who rose through the political establishment with support from President Bush, since news of his directive to sell his remaining HCA shares became public in the fall of 2005. Frist decided against a run for the presidency in 2008 and left Congress last year to “take a sabbatical from public life,” he said at the time.
Frist’s father and brother founded HCA, which grew into the country’s biggest hospital chain and last year became the subject of one of the largest-ever private investment buyouts, valued at $33 billion. The former senator fielded questions throughout his political career about the source of his wealth and whether his close ties to HCA influenced his position on health-care legislation and prescription drug prices.
Hopefully newspapers and weblogs of all persuasions will carry this story. One (sometimes legitimate) complaint about the mainstream news media is that it runs SCREAMING HEADLINES LIKE THIS about a possible investigation or scandal but buries the follow up story if nothing happens. Weblogs run the same danger of not reporting follow up stories.
This site isn’t affiliated with any political party but our posts have made one thing clear: Frist was perhaps one of the most ineffective majority leaders in American Congressional history. Future political scientists will not be studying and emulating his leadership techniques. The GOP is faring much better under its current leadership which seemingly has a better feel for behind-the-scenes discussions and attempts at coalition building. Frist is taking a sabbatical but he also proved to be the Velcro Candidate — the flip side of Ronald Reagan the Teflon President. If someone could be nailed on a position change, it was Frist. If the media could play “gotcha” and get someone for shifting a previous stand or making later-regretted quote, it was Frist.
In that sense, he probably does not have a bright future if he still maintains presidential aspirations because some GOPers to this day are extremely bitter over how poorly the GOP fared under his leadership — and some political writers would be licking their chops if he ran.
But this investigation had been one of the things looming in the background, clouding up the prospect that he’d have a free run if he ran. Now the clouds have parted — and Frist is completely exonerated .
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.