Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Friday, November 11, 2005

Healthcare company's campaign gifts

Hospital owners give big bucks
to the people who make the rules

By David Baker

Posted July 4, 2006

The operator of Samaritan Hospital has given at least $21,575 to Capital Region state legislators, including thousands of dollars to the chairs of the health committees in the Assembly and the Senate, even as those chairmen all but ignored requests to examine the state Health Department’s decision that the hospital was not in violation in its treatment of Lisa prior to her unexplained death while she was in its care.

An examination of records filed with the state Board of Elections shows that since 1999, Samaritan Hospital, using several different entities and addresses, has contributed to the campaigns of at least 10 members of the Senate and Assembly, including Democrat Richard Gottfried, chair of the Assembly Health Committee, and Kemp Hannon, who chairs the health committee in the Senate.

Also benefiting from Samaritan’s generosity are assemblymen Ronald Canestrari, Pat Casale, Paul Tonko and Robert Reilly and former assemblymen Bob Prentiss and John Faso, as well as senators Joseph Bruno, Neil Breslin and Hugh Farley. The Democratic campaign committee in the Assembly and the Republican campaign committee in the Senate also received money from the healthcare company.

The hospital’s owner also gave money to a political action committee identified as UHAP, based in Clifton Park, which in turn gave $3,000 to Hannon. Another $1,000 went to the Healthcare Association of New York (HANYS), which since 1999 has given at least $1.3 million to legislative campaigns, $22,500 of it going to Hannon.

As is reported elsewhere on this page, Hannon ignored a letter from me in January 2005 asking that his committee examine the Health Department’s ruling – after a 7-month "investigation" – that the hospital had not violated any rules when its nurses allowed Lisa’s blood sugar to fall to almost zero, causing ultimately fatal injuries to her brain and other organs.

A year later, after a second letter, and a mention of the situation by Fred Dicker on his WROW radio show "Live From the State Capitol," Hannon called Dicker off the air and claimed I had been rude to a member of his staff and had refused to give her my phone number. In fact, I had simply complained that she was once again asking for my number, even though no one from Hannon’s office had ever returned my calls in the 13 months since my first request. Hannon told Dicker that "a letter was being written" to the health department, but to this day I have heard absolutely nohing from Hannon's office.

The response from Assemblyman Gottfried was not much better. Again, after almost a year and also a mention by Fred Dicker, Gottfried did write to the commissioner of health. But three months later, upon receiving a reply that said the case was closed and was going to stay closed, Gottfried dropped the matter when, as health committee chair, he could have at least demanded the Health Department’s file on the case, even held hearings on an issue of obvious public concern.

And requests made this year to Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, Senate Minority Leader David Paterson and Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco to review their respective houses’ committees’ inaction have achieved nothing. Bruno’s counsel, Karen Crummy, told me repeatedly over a period of four months that she would attempt to get the health department’s file. Then, in April, she had a spokesman contact me to say only that there would be a "review" but that I might never learn anything more.

And so far, I haven’t.

As for Paterson and Tedisco: I received only a generic auto reply to my e-mails. If either man has actually seen my request, he has not yet contacted me.

Hospital’s money comes from several places

The contributions made by the company that operates Samaritan Hospital to state lawmakers are listed in Board of Elections records as coming from at least three apparently separate entities, and from addresses all over the Capital Region.

A total of $18,575 is shown as coming from Samaritan Medical Buildings, Inc., which since 1999 has given addresses at 2220 Burdette Ave., Troy, Commerce Plaza, Albany, 360 Washington Road, Delmar, and c/o the Iroquois Healthcare Alliance in Clifton Park. It also has used two addresses in Troy, at 2215 and 2012 Burdette Ave.

Then there is Samaritan Office Buildings, Inc., which has used 600 Northern Blvd. in Albany – the location of Memorial Hospital – and 2220 Burdette Ave. in Troy. All of its contributions – totaling $1,500 – went to Sen. Hannon.

Finally, $1,550 came from Northeast Health Office Buildings, Inc., which listed addresses at 2215 Burdette Ave., Troy and 504 State St., Schenectady.

The filings reporting the contributions listed in these stories cover the period from July 1999 to January of this year. The next filing date is July 15, and because this is an election year, further filings are due at 32 days and 11 days before the election. An update on this story will appear here soon after each of them.