WASHINGTON IN BRIEF

Friday, June 2, 2006

Frist Campaign Is Fined $11,000

The Federal Election Commission has determined that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's 2000 Senate campaign violated federal campaign finance laws.

The federal agency fined Frist 2000 Inc. $11,000, according to a lawyer representing Frist's campaign and a watchdog group. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington had filed a complaint last year against Frist's 2000 campaign committee and received the FEC's findings yesterday.

The FEC found that Frist 2000 Inc. failed to disclose a $1.44 million loan taken out jointly by the campaign and Frist's 1994 campaign committee.

The Tennessee Republican, who was elected to the Senate in 1994, is not seeking a third term and is weighing a possible bid for the presidency in 2008.

Federal law requires full disclosure of any loans taken out by campaign committees. Frist's 1994 campaign committee did disclose the loan to the FEC in January 2001, but the 2000 campaign did not, according to the FEC.

In an agreement reached with the Frist campaign committee, the agency said Frist 2000 Inc. violated the law by failing to report the loan in its January 2001 campaign finance report and did not properly report the repayment of the loan in a July 2001 report.

Jason Torchinsky, a lawyer representing Frist 2000 Inc., said the campaign settled the FEC complaint. "What the FEC suggested, we believe would have resulted in double reporting of the loan," Torchinsky said.

Medicare Reveals Surgeries' Cost

The U.S. government, the biggest purchaser of health care, has begun to post the prices Medicare pays hospitals for common procedures such as heart surgeries and knee replacements, in an effort to cast light on the price and quality of health care.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which runs the Medicare health program for more than 43 million elderly and disabled people, is posting the average price Medicare pays for 30 common elective procedures broken down by county.

Health-care costs are generally opaque in the United States, in part because intermediaries such as health insurers and employers finance much of the system for patients. Experts have said Americans know more about the quality and pricing of their cars than their health care.

"People generally don't have a clue what the health care they are consuming costs, nor do they have any means to be able to compare it to a national standard," Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt told reporters in a telephone briefing.

The new data are from Medicare rates for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2005.

Weapons Workers Keep Benefits

The Bush administration will continue to support a benefits program for Cold War-era nuclear weapons workers, President Bush's budget director says.

Rob Portman pledged to support the five-year-old program in a letter to Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

The letter, which Obama released yesterday, was written about three months after a White House budget document discussing ways to scale back the program became public.

That earlier document stated that the White House would lead an interagency working group to develop ways "to contain growth in the costs of benefits" provided under the program.

-- From News Services


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