Bush's choice to lead FDA faces `personal propriety' investigation

Senator received letter containing allegations

April 15, 2005|By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar | Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON - President Bush's nominee to lead the Food and Drug Administration ran into new difficulties yesterday after a key senator asked for an investigation of alleged personal improprieties.

Sen. Mike Enzi, a Wyoming Republican, told reporters he had recently received an anonymous letter containing allegations that reflected on acting Commissioner Lester M. Crawford's "personal propriety."

Enzi declined to spell out the allegations, which came from an FDA employee. As chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Enzi has jurisdiction over Crawford's nomination.

Enzi said the letter was "badly spelled, badly written and in terrible condition." He stressed that he personally was satisfied with the FBI's background check of Crawford, but said he nonetheless decided to seek further investigation of the letter.

Enzi asked the FDA's Office of Internal Affairs to open the investigation. But it is unclear whether that office will keep the case, since it ultimately reports to the acting commissioner.

The request for an investigation coincided with a decision by Enzi and the committee's top Democrat, Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, to postpone a committee vote on Crawford's nomination that had been scheduled for Wednesday.

In a joint statement, Enzi and Kennedy said they wanted to try to work out issues raised by senators of both parties. Two Democratic committee members said last week that they would block a floor vote on Crawford until the FDA decides whether to allow the form of emergency contraception known as the "morning-after" pill to be sold without a prescription. The investigation was also a factor in the postponement, said a committee staff member.

The White House expressed continued confidence in Crawford yesterday, but some lawmakers said they sensed trouble.

"This confirms the controversial nature of Crawford's nomination," said Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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