Corporate Crime

Rummy getting rich off panic. Literally.

Another entry in the disgusting saga of Republicans turning fear into profit, as Fortune Magazine reports that undiagnosed mental patient Donald Rumsfeld is making a lot of money off this pesky bird flu.

See, the bird flu has killed OVER A HUNDRED PEOPLE! HOLEE CRAP!! QUICK, WE GOTTA PANIC! And step one: spend tax dollars to order up a bunch of drugs. Rummy, you got anyone we can call?

The prospect of a bird flu outbreak may be panicking people around the globe, but it's proving to be very good news for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other politically connected investors in Gilead Sciences, the California biotech company that owns the rights to Tamiflu, the influenza remedy that's now the most-sought after drug in the world.

Rumsfeld served as Gilead Research's chairman from 1997 until he joined the Bush administration in 2001, and he still holds a Gilead stake valued at between $5 million and $25 million, according to federal financial disclosures filed by Rumsfeld.

The forms don't reveal the exact number of shares Rumsfeld owns, but in the past six months fears of a pandemic and the ensuing scramble for Tamiflu have sent Gilead's stock from $35 to $47. That's made the Pentagon chief, already one of the wealthiest members of the Bush cabinet, at least $1 million richer.

Rumsfeld isn't the only political heavyweight benefiting from demand for Tamiflu, which is manufactured and marketed by Swiss pharma giant Roche. (Gilead receives a royalty from Roche equaling about 10% of sales.) Former Secretary of State George Shultz, who is on Gilead's board, has sold more than $7 million worth of Gilead since the beginning of 2005.

Another board member is the wife of former California Gov. Pete Wilson.

"I don't know of any biotech company that's so politically well-connected," says analyst Andrew McDonald of Think Equity Partners in San Francisco.

World Health Organization officials have been saying for months that the most valuable action to take is corralling domestic and farm birds and keeping them away from wild bird populations. But, see, Rummy and his Republican pals don't own shares in a multi-national bird corralling company. No. They make drugs. Not drugs like pot, which are non-addictive and less harmful than alcohol or cigarettes. Other drugs. Drugs they call pharmaceuticals.

Okay, look, it's really simple: they are evil.