Mike Ross’ real estate problem

MIKE ROSS’ REAL ESTATE PROBLEM…. Rep. Mike Ross (D) of Arkansas, the Blue Dog caucus’ point-man on health care policy, sold some commercial property in 2007 for a lot more money that it’s worth. That, coupled with the pharmacy chain that bought it, makes this a potentially problematic story.

Ross sold Holly’s Health Mart in Prescott, Ark., to USA Drug for $420,000 — an eye-popping price for real estate in a tiny train and lumber town about 100 miles southwest of Little Rock.

“You can buy half the town for $420,000,” said Adam Guthrie, chairman of the county Board of Equalization and the only licensed real estate appraiser in Prescott.

But the $420,000 that USA Drug paid for the pharmacy’s building and land was just the beginning of what Ross and his wife, Holly, made from the sale of Holly’s Health Mart. USA Drug owner Stephen L. LaFrance Sr. also paid the Rosses $500,000 to $1 million for the pharmacy’s assets and paid Holly Ross an additional $100,000 to $250,000 for signing a noncompete agreement. Those numbers, which Mike Ross listed on the financial disclosure reports he files as a member of Congress, bring the total value of the transaction to between $1 million and $1.67 million.

And that’s not counting the $2,300 campaign contribution Ross received from LaFrance two weeks after the sale closed.

Ross, who recently reversed course on the Democratic reform plan after having already voted for it in committee, is a member of the Congressional Community Pharmacy Coalition. Trade associations have recently thanked the conservative Democrat for approving measures favorable to the industry.

There may be an innocent explanation for the matter. I’m just not sure what it might be.