WASHINGTON — In the wake of increased controversy surrounding potential connections between donations to the Clinton Foundation and special access to the U.S. State Department during Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, a local congressional representative has joined the chorus of calls for increased scrutiny and investigation into this matter.
U.S. House of Representatives
Rep. Robert Latta, R-Bowling Green: On Wednesday, Latta sent a letter, along with several other congressional representatives, to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, requesting that she appoint a special counsel to investigate the Clinton Foundation. A special counsel can be appointed by the Justice Department if an investigation into a person or matter would present a conflict of interest for the department.
A report from The Associated Press revealed that at least 85 out of 154 private-interest representatives who met with or had telephone conversations with Clinton during her time at the State Department had donated to the charity or pledged to its international programs. Those contributions have totaled as much as $156 million, with at least 40 donating more than $100,000 each and 20 giving more than $1 million.
“The public has an expectation that any misconduct at a government agency is thoroughly investigated and that bad actors are held accountable,” Latta said. “In the interest of transparency, the AG should appoint a special counsel to get to the bottom of this issue and determine if there were any ‘pay-to-play’ schemes at State during that time.”
Also on Wednesday, Latta participated in a groundbreaking ceremony for Dana Inc.’s new axle manufacturing plant in Toledo. Located at the new Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority’s Overland Industrial Park, the $70 million plant will produce axles for Jeep Wranglers upon completion, employing 300 people.
“This groundbreaking means more jobs and more American products being made right here in Northwest Ohio,” Latta said after the ceremony. “Dana’s investment will bring hundreds of jobs to the area, and it kicks off manufacturing at the new Overland Industrial Park. This facility is a welcome addition to the region, and I was grateful to be able to participate in the event.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio: On Tuesday, Brown joined other lawmakers demanding answers from Heather Bresch, CEO of Mylan, the manufacturer of the EpiPen, an auto-injector used to quickly deliver medicine to counteract severe allergic reactions.
As of May, the price for EpiPens had increased from $104 for a set of two in 2009 to $609, an increase of more than 480 percent. Brown’s office maintained that in the same time, Bresch’s compensation grew by 670 percent.
“Parents of children with severe allergies live in fear each day that their children will have an allergic reaction,” Brown said. “This price gouging hurts families who already struggle to get by — all while Mylan’s CEO collects an outrageous salary. The company owes the American people more than just an explanation — we need to see action to bring down the cost of this drug so it is accessible to those who need it.”
On Thursday, Brown announced the release of more than $1 million in federal funds to provide relief for laid off coal miners and their families. The money will help fund ongoing re-employment efforts for dislocated workers.
“The changing coal economy has put some workers out of a job through no fault of their own,” Brown said. “This grant will give Ohio the tools to continue its support for displaced workers and help them get back on their feet.”
Brown also announced the awarding of almost $14.4 million by the Department of Veterans Affairs Supportive Services for Veteran Families program to 15 organizations serving Ohio. The SSVF aims to prevent veteran homelessness and rehouse veterans and their families who become homeless.
Local organizations included in the award are St. Vincent de Paul Social Services of Allen and Auglaize Counties and The Salvation Army in Hardin County.
“These federal resources provided by the VA is an important investment in ensuring that all Ohio veterans and their families have a place to call home,” Brown said.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio: On Wednesday, Portman announced plans to introduce legislation to help stop the shipping of fentanyl and carfentanil across the border to drug traffickers in the United States. Both fentanyl and carfentanil have been causing a spike in heroin overdoses and deaths, with the drugs frequently laced into heroin.
The legislation would require shipments from foreign countries sent through the U.S. Postal Service to provide advance electronic data on packages before crossing the border. This data would include information on its origin, destination and contents. This information would aid in targeting potentially illegal packages, Portman said.
Also on Wednesday, Portman was in Toledo to help launch the Walgreens safe medication disposal kiosk program aimed to help prescription drug abuse. The drug store chain plans to have more than 500 kiosks in place nationwide.
“I am grateful to Walgreens for their commitment to helping keep our communities safe by making drug takeback kiosks more available in Ohio,” Portman said. “I believe that they will make a difference in helping keep these painkillers out of the wrong hands and preventing new addictions from starting.”
On Thursday, Portman joined with the AARP to promote Portman’s Senior Tax Hike Prevention Act, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Portman and Brown that would prevent an increase to the threshold to claim the medical expense tax deduction for seniors. The current 7.5 percent rate is scheduled to increase to 10 percent the end of this year.
“So many seniors live on fixed incomes and are struggling with higher costs, especially health care, and this bipartisan measure will address this issue and make a difference for them,” Portman said.
Reach Craig Kelly at 567-242-0390 or on Twitter @Lima_CKelly.