Major Obama Donor Tied to Pharmaceutical Industry

October 11, 2012

The mysterious healthcare giant who provided Barack Obama’s Super PAC with a $1 million boost threatened a top liberal publication writing a profile about him.

Kareem Ahmed has maintained a low profile despite his extravagant giving. When Talking Points Memo’s Eric Lech set out to find out more about Ahmed, he discovered a donor with a prickly personality.

There are only a few dozen Americans who have given at least $1 million to super PACs this election cycle, and Kareem Ahmed is one of them. If you manage to talk to him, he’ll tell you a lot. He’ll tell you all about a class of pharmaceuticals, called compound drugs, which he is in the business of promoting, and which have been the subject of a contentious debate in California, where he lives and works. He’ll tell you to read ProPublica’s reporting about Big Pharma. He’ll tell you House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is his best friend. He’ll tell you about his dream to someday take the proceeds of his business and build the largest non-profit children’s hospital in the world in Southern California’s Inland Empire. He’ll tell you how he fixed Democratic political strategist Paul Begala’s knee. He’ll tell you how much he loves President Barack Obama, whom he has met on a number of occasions.

He told me several times that he thought I’d been hired by Republicans, insurance companies, or his competition to destroy him.

"I really want to educate you, Eric, I really do," Ahmed said in an interview over the phone in late August. "Because, you know what, because I’m prepared. My law firms are ready to go, and I’ve got PR firms retained already. They’re waiting for your article."

Ahmed made his fortune through a billing operation for California’s workers compensation system, as well as through controversial, unregulated "compound" drugs in the form of pain creams that are altered, mixed, or combined from established medicines. Compound drugs are more expensive than established pharmaceuticals and Ahmed’s arrival on California’s insurance scene led to an 800 percent increase in the state’s use of compounds. He later spent thousands of dollars to water down legislation aimed at limiting the practice.

Ahmed explained that his Muslim faith and charitable work inspired his mega donations.

"You know, I am supporting the Democrats, I support President Clinton, President Obama, you know, Nancy Pelosi, all these other people, because they support philanthropic work, and they give religious freedoms," Ahmed said. "Look at the respect they gave to His Holiness. … That is my main angle. That is why I’ve been supporting the Democratic community, because I believe they do more than the Republican side."