Rep. Mike Ross — a Blue Dog Democrat playing a key role in the health care debate — sold a piece of commercial property in 2007 for substantially more than a county assessment and an independent appraisal say it was worth. The buyer: an Arkansas-based pharmacy chain with a keen interest in how the debate plays out.
Ross sold the real estate in Prescott, Ark., to USA Drug for $420,000 — an eye-popping number for real estate in the 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 was just the beginning of what Ross and his pharmacist wife, Holly, made from the sale of Holly’s Health Mart. The owner of USA Drug, Stephen L. LaFrance Sr., also paid the Rosses $500,000 to $1 million for the pharmacy’s assets and paid Holly Ross another $100,000 to $250,000 for signing a non-compete agreement. Those numbers, which 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.