Texans for Public Justice

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Ronald C. Kaufman

Occupation: Senior Managing Partner
Employer: Dutko Group
Home: Washington, DC
Mega-lobbyist Ron Kaufman married the sister of ex-lobbyist Andy Card, who became George W. Bush’s chief of staff. After Kaufman directed the campaign of the first President Bush, that president appointed him deputy White House personnel director. In this role, Kaufman recruited the first chair of the Indian Gaming Commission. That agency regulated the casino plans of the Pequot Wampanoag Tribe, which later hired Kaufman to lobby (the Pequot got their casino and still retain Kaufman). Kaufman is an “informal advisor” to the second President Bush and was appointed co-chair of the 2004 Republican National Convention Site Selection Committee. Kaufman is a former finance chair of the Republican Governor’s Association. At Dutko Group Kaufman reported that 52 clients paid him more than $2.7 million in 2002. His four largest clients were Tufts University, the Michigan Biotechnology Institute, construction giant HNTB Companies and the American Herbal Products Association’s Ephedra Committee. Ephedra is a stimulant used in herbal weight-loss and performance-boosting remedies that have been linked to psychosis, strokes, heart attacks and deaths (see Craig Keeland). Texas Department of Health (TDH) staff drafted tough new ephedra marketing rules in the late 1990s, triggering an industry lobbying blitz. Then-Governor Bush’s Board of Health appointees (see Bill Ceverha) trashed their staff’s proposal in 1999 and adopted a weak industry alternative. A state senator lobbying for an ephedra vendor and Pioneer lobbyist Tom Loeffler, lobbied Bush Health Secretary Tommy Thompson in 2001 against a pending TDH rule requiring ephedra products to carry a toll-free number where users could report health problems to the FDA. One month later, TDH postponed implementing the new rule, citing the “advice” of the U.S. Department of Health. Although ephedra triggers far more serious health complaints than any other herbal product, regulators pressured by this $3 billion-a-year industry have been slow to control it. The U.S. FDA belatedly announced in late 2003 that it would seek an ephedra ban. During the seven years that the FDA deliberated this policy, ephedra contributed to the deaths of more than 80 people, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and the industry made billions of dollars.