The Oct. 24 front-page story "Letters Show Frist Notified of Stocks in 'Blind' Trusts" said of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist:

"Frist, a heart-surgeon-turned-politician, has been actively involved in shaping national health care legislation, including passage of the Medicare prescription drug benefit, while maintaining a major financial interest in his family-founded health care business."

To me, that sentence was suggesting that Mr. Frist had a conflict of interest. But the story buried the critical fact that the Senate Ethics Committee has twice concluded that Mr. Frist's ownership of HCA stock did not present a conflict of interest under Senate rules that would preclude him from working and voting on health care legislation.

Further, Senate rules did not require him to set up a blind trust or to divest his HCA stock. He took these steps voluntarily to eliminate even the appearance of a conflict of interest.

The article also noted that Mr. Frist received letters from the trustees of his qualified blind trusts. However, it should have emphasized that Senate financial disclosure rules, not just the trust agreements, required these letters. Records on file with the Senate Ethics Committee show that many senators receive similar letters from their trustees.

And in fact, the letters show that Mr. Frist was notified only when new assets were contributed to the trusts and when the trustee liquidated a particular asset -- not that he was informed about day-to-day transactions inside his blind trusts. Moreover, the letters from his trustees demonstrate that in no way did Mr. Frist exercise improper control over his trusts.



The writer is chief of staff to Mr. Frist (R-Tenn.).