The Chimperor pontificates on how he will spend more tax dollars on no-bid contracts in an effort to head off a possible pandemic of deadly influenza. (AFP/Luke Frazza)

Bloggrrrl Ms. Julien discusses the latest circle jerk of cronyism coming out of this ethically bankrupt White House.

You know that little press conference the Chimp held today, outlining his “national strategy” to reduce the chance of a widespread outbreak of the H5N1 avian flu? It was supposed to be a distraction from that little Libby matter, but Bush’s show was itself overshadowed by the Dems closed-door Senate power play.

Since you might have missed our dear leader’s newsflash plan to combat the bird flu, let’s take a look at the major points, which will cost the taxpayers $7.1 billion. (AP):

1. $1.2 billion to stockpile enough vaccine against the current H5N1 flu strain to protect 20 million Americans, the estimated number of health workers and other first-responders involved in a pandemic.

2. $1 billion for the drugs Tamiflu and Relenza, which can treat and, in some cases, prevent flu infection. Enough to treat 44 million people and prevent infection in 6 million others is headed for the federal stockpile. States were told to buy 31 million treatment courses, but Bush is funding only a quarter of the states’ anticipated bill.

3. $2.8 billion to speed production of pandemic vaccines — including better-matched strains — by learning to manufacture them in easier-to-handle cell cultures, instead of today’s slow method that relies on millions of chicken eggs.

4. $251 million for international preparations, including improving early-warning systems to spot human infections with novel flu strains.

5. $100 million for state preparations, including determining how to deliver stockpiled medicines directly to patients.

6. $56 million to test poultry and wild birds for H5N1 or other novel flu strains entering the U.S. bird population.

7. A call for Congress to provide liability protection for makers of a pandemic vaccine, which unlike shots against the regular winter flu would be experimental, largely untested.

Let’s take a look at who stands to benefit from #2. Guess who has a stake in TamifluDonald Rumsfeld.

Rumsfeld said he has recused himself from decisions involving avian flu prevention or treatment because he has stock in the company that developed the anti-viral medicine Tamiflu. (AFP/Getty Images/Win McNamee)

The blowhard defense secretary served as chairman for Gilead Research (which owns the rights to Tamiflu) from 1997 until 2001 when he joined the Bush admin. He still holds a stake in the company valued at between $5 million and $25 million, according to federal financial disclosures filed by Rumsfeld (CNN/Money).

Since Tamiflu has been in the news as one of the few possible medications to address the possible pandemic, its stock has shot from $35 to $47 a share, enriching Rummy’s already well-lined pockets by a cool million. Tamiflu is manufactured and marketed by Roche, and Gilead receives a royalty from Roche equaling about 10% of sales of the med.

Have you heard anything about this little bit of business? I doubt that it was announced in the big Bush rollout today, and I know I haven’t seen anything significant in the MSM about this latest Bush Crony Enrichment PlanTM. Did Rummy think of unloading these holdings to avoid the appearance of cronyism? Yeah, he thought about it…

As the flu issue heated up early this year, according to the Pentagon official, Rumsfeld considered unloading his entire Gilead stake and sought the advice of the Department of Justice, the SEC and the federal Office of Government Ethics.

Those agencies didn’t offer an opinion so Rumsfeld consulted a private securities lawyer, who advised him that it was safer to hold on to the stock and be quite public about his recusal rather than sell and run the risk of being accused of trading on insider information, something Rumsfeld doesn’t believe he possesses. So he’s keeping his shares for the time being.

And he’s keeping the cash too. Perhaps he can toss some of those profits into the kitty to fund more doses of vaccine for the poor.

Also see:
* No Child Left Behind: the Bush family cashes in too

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding