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Former King CEO defends record, GOP contributions

Hank Hayes • Sep 16, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Major Tennessee Republican campaign donor John Gregory is going on offense in an attempt to clear up his professional record and counter future attacks by Democrats.

One reason Gregory is doing it is because he apparently doesn’t think Republican leaders have done enough to defend him.

Gregory’s spokesman, business associate and former Tennessee state Sen. Jim Holcomb, has issued a “talking points” document defending Gregory’s campaign contributions to Republicans and his tenure as former King Pharmaceuticals chairman and CEO. Gregory declined to be interviewed for this story.

Holcomb said the document is in part a collaboration between himself and Gregory, who founded the Tennessee Conservative Political Action Committee and is managing partner of his own Bristol-based investment firm. Others also contributed to the document, said Holcomb, who serves as the PAC’s treasurer.

“As we approach another campaign season both parties are sighting in their political guns to discredit, besmirch and generally unseat their opposition,” Holcomb said in an e-mail. “The Gregory family is aware of these shenanigans and has been the brunt of some of the attacks. The greatest frustration has been that most of the Democratic attack on the Gregorys is defensible while only token efforts have been made by our leadership to call their assertions lies and protect one of the party’s benefactors.”

In response, Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Gray Sasser said he hasn’t taken any political shots at Gregory.

“I’m almost at a loss. ... It seems like they are preparing for a controversy, and I’m not sure if it’s even a controversy yet, which would indicate to me the Gregorys and the Republicans are gearing up for a big fight about something, but I’m not sure what the fight is about yet,” Sasser said.

The Gregory-Holcomb document has been e-mailed to a number of GOP leaders, including Tennessee Republican Party Chair Robin Smith, U.S. Rep. David Davis, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Tennessee House GOP Leader Jason Mumpower.

Davis, Ramsey and Mumpower have received campaign contributions from Gregory and members of his family. Gregory’s Tennessee Conservative PAC contributed nearly $113,000 to state legislative campaigns in 2006, according to the Registry of Election Finance. As an individual, Gregory has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican political campaigns and advocacy organizations such as anti-abortion group Tennessee Right To Life.

The Gregory-Holcomb document says:

•Gregory and his family support pro-life and traditional family values.

•During his term at King Pharmaceuticals and since leaving the company over five years ago, no governmental agency has ever charged Gregory or another Gregory family member with any wrongdoing in regard to Medicaid issues or anything else. After Gregory left the company, King agreed in November 2005 to repay $124 million plus interest to resolve allegations that it underpaid rebates owed to the Medicaid program and overcharged various federal and state governmental entities for its drug products, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

•Gregory’s previous giving “hopes to generate financial parity in campaign messaging as the Democrats have traditionally outspent Republicans in campaign spending.” Neither Gregory, nor any member of his family, has ever asked for any special consideration or favor from an elected official other than to stand firmly on their principles and values, according to the document.

“The effort of the Democrats to denigrate the ethics of the Gregory family through innuendo and misinformation does not alter the fact that their only interest is social issues that define us as a society,” the document said.

Gregory also took issue with online Wikipedia entries about his political connections.

In particular, the document said a Wikipedia entry describing an August 1999 “lobbying airlift” organized by Ramsey aboard a King corporate aircraft to get the company’s branded Altace drug onto TennCare’s preferred drug list was an “inaccurate representation of the meeting, its intent or outcome.”

Holcomb, who formerly served as a King lobbyist, produced a copy of a letter written by former TennCare Director Brian Lapps who wrote that he didn’t see “this as a lobbying effort” by King.

“As I recall the King drugs were already on the TennCare formulary,” Lapps said in the letter.

Davis’ press secretary, Timothy Hill, attempted to edit that particular Wikipedia entry using his congressional office computer. Wikipedia discovered and publicly disclosed Hill’s action, and Davis’ office has directed Hill to attend a second round of ethics training as a result.

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