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The Great Vitamin Scam: How Orrin Hatch Hijacked Your Health


Buying the right politician can do more for a brand than any amount of marketing.

However, true believer Hatch also seems to live by a belief system that also includes the worship of another god.


In 2003, the Los Angeles Times exposed the fact that "that the supplements industry has not only showered the senator with campaign money but also paid almost $2 million in lobbying fees to firms that employed his son Scott."

From 1998 to 2001, Scott Hatch worked for Parry and Romani Associates, a lobbying firm run by Tom Parry, a former senior aide to Senator Hatch, with clients in the supplements industry who paid the company almost $2 million. More than $1 million came from companies seeking help in blocking increased regulation of ephedra, a natural amphetamine-like stimulant, which had been named as a possible cause in 80 deaths nationwide.

The FDA backed down after Hatch, along with Iowa Senator Tom Harkin (who believes bee pollen cured his allergies) protested the "incomplete nature of some of the incident reports, which came from users, doctors and other sources."

Strangely enough, the kind of information Hatch and Harkin were insisting on was exactly the type of detailed data the two legislators exempted supplement makers from collecting -- the results of premarket tests and clinical trials required of prescription medications -- when they introduced the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) in 1994. DSHEA was signed into law by President Bill Clinton, and eliminated any power the FDA had to review, test, or regulate dietary supplements, as long as the now-familiar disclaimer was displayed on the packaging: "This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease."

(At the time, Hatch happened to own nearly 72,000 shares of Pharmics, Inc., a Utah company that sold prenatal vitamins and vitamin C additives, and whose president, Walter J. Plumb III, is Hatch's former law partner.)

Fresh off the ephedra victory, Hatch's son Scott opened his own lobbying firm, Walker, Martin & Hatch, representing, among others, clients in the supplements sector, some of whom followed him from Parry and Romani.

Senator Hatch told the Los Angeles Times that he saw "no conflict of interest in championing issues that benefit his son's clients."

"I would have no qualms talking to Scott," about his clients, Hatch said. "I wouldn't do anything for him that wasn't right.

"Right" in the eyes of the law is sometimes a bit different from "right" in ethical terms.

It turns out that Jack Martin, the "Martin" in Walker, Martin & Hatch, was a staff aide to Senator Hatch for six years, and the "Walker" on the firm's shingle is H. Laird Walker, a close associate -- and generous campaign donor -- of Senator Hatch.

"This is typical revolving door influence peddling that major businesses exploit to the nth degree," Craig Holman, legislative representative for Public Citizen, a Washington, D.C. policy organization which champions citizen's interests, tells Minyanville. "The best way to protect a business's own interest is to employ former staff members of a politician who has direct influence over that industry. There's really no more effective way to get a senator on your side than to abuse the revolving door."
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