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Evan Low
Assemblyman Evan Low. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Assemblyman Evan Low’s Legislation: Conflict of Family Interests?

Campaign contributions and legislation also benefit Optometrist father, Orthodontist uncle

By Katy Grimes, July 24, 2020 9:31 am

A bill authored by Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell) to “protect consumers” from the popular orthodontic treatment using clear aligners, is highly dubious, according to an op ed written for California Globe by Dr. Michael Guirguis who is a California dentist.

Dr. Guirguis said the clear aligners entered the dental care market 6 years ago, cutting costs for orthodontic treatment by more than half and relieving patients from office visits. Despite this orthodontic treatment being used by more than 1 million consumers already, Low’s Assembly Bill 1998 requires that a patient could not receive any orthodontic treatment without first having a dental office visit and X-rays.

“AB 1998 removes the treating dentist from this important decision as to whether or not to expose a patient to potentially harmful radiation,” Dr. Guirguis said. “In contrast, there is no such standing order for x-rays with very invasive dental procedures such as implants and root canals.”

It’s a curious bill to author, and even more curious that it is proceeding forward with a hearing Monday July 27, even with the shortened legislative session stressing COVID-related bills, and legislation to assist with an economic recovery. Most other unrelated legislation has been pulled until next year.

However, Low’s uncle is an Orthodontist. “Did you know you wanted to be in politics when you were growing up?” the Silicon Valley Business Journal asked Assemblyman Low in 2016. “I’d say the contrary. My father is an optometrist, and my uncle is an orthodontist…”

Warrior Draymond Green Opposes Low’s bill

USA Today recently reported that Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green has opposed Assemblyman Low’s “Dental Practice Act” to require dentists to conduct in-person examinations instead of approving treatment plans for aligners. “Green, an investor in teledentistry leader SmileDirectClub, has become increasingly vocal about the ‘Dental Practice Act’ by urging California state senators not to approve the bill that was recently passed through the state Assembly,” USA today reported.

“Green argues that low-income families would struggle significantly to meet those requirements. In an interview with MarketWatch, Low conceded, ‘this will disproportionately hurt communities of color; not everyone can go to health-care providers. But the reality is that subpar treatment can do real harm, the risk is too high.’ That candor only reinforced Green’s concern.”

“When you have a guy in Evan Low, who can come out and be quoted saying, ‘This will disproportionately hurt communities of color’ and yet he’s still going to push a bill, he’s telling you what his agenda is,” Green said. “He’s telling you what he cares about, and Black people aren’t one of them. When you start talking about Black communities, we don’t have a voice.”

A Dental Trajedy

Besides authoring AB 1998, Low appeared tone deaf in a tragic situation with the subsequent legislation, and ended up on looking like a stooge for the dental lobby.

In 2015, a six-year-old boy died after he stopped breathing when an oral surgeon administered anesthesia prior to a tooth extraction. “The family learned on March 13, 2015, when Michael Doucet, an oral surgeon, prepared to pull one of [six-year-old Caleb Sears’] teeth that was coming in wrong,” the Sacramento Bee reported in 2017. “As was his practice and that of other oral surgeons, Doucet anesthetized Caleb with heavy drugs: propofol, ketamine, fentanyl, nitrous oxide, lidocaine, midazolam. It went terribly wrong. The little boy stopped breathing before the surgery began. Doucet tried to insert a breathing tube down young Caleb’s throat. He failed. He called for the crash cart, but it lacked vital items. His assistants couldn’t find a particular drug that should have been within easy reach to ease intubation. One of Doucet’s assistants called 911, too late. By the time the ambulance arrived, Caleb had no pulse. His body lived on for two days, but his brain had died,” Dan Morain reported in “How $3 Million In Political Donations Stands In The Way Of Justice For This Boy’s Death.”

Morain reported that oral surgeons and dentists opposed an effort by Caleb’s family to change California law to require anesthesiologists to administer anesthesia during oral surgery. But because of a very strong and well-funded dental lobby, Assembly Business and Professions Committee chairman “Assemblyman Evan Low, imposed an amendment that was just what the oral surgeons ordered. Essentially, it would allow them to conduct business as usual. The committee approved it.”

Caleb’s family was shocked at the political machinations.

Campaign Contributions, Behest Payments

The Bee’s Dan Morain also reported on the significant political clout the California Dental Association has achieved over the years, growing in financial and lobbying prominence. 

Since 2015, the Secretary of State’s website has listed how Evan Low’s Assembly Campaign Committee has taken at least $59,000 in contributions from dentists, the dental industry and entities affiliated with dentists.

Assemblyman Evan Low’s campaign contributions related to the dental industry. (Photo: contributions for Low via SOS.ca.gov)

Low reported a $5,000 behest payment from the California Dental Association PAC in 2018, which went to the California Legislative LGBT Foundation. Low was president and his chief of staff, Gina Frisby, was secretary of the group in 2018, according to the California Fair Political Practices Commission website, and the California Legislative LGBT Foundation, 2018 IRS Form 990.

FPPC behest payment, Asm. Evan Low.

In 2015, Low Reportedly “[Visited] New York On A $2,787 Trip With The California Dental Foundation,” the Sacramento Bee reported in 2016. “California legislators accepted at least $612,000 worth of travel last year from nonprofit organizations and foreign governments … Assembly members Evan Low, D-Campbell, and Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, both disclosed travel gifts amounting to around $29,000. Low attended the Maui conference and visited Israel on a $12,976 trip with the American Israel Education Foundation, China on an $8,813 trip with US-Asia Innovation Gateway and New York on a $2,787 trip with the California Dental Foundation.”

Low also reported a 2018 trip to New York City from The California Dental Association Foundation. 

The Optometry Connection

Notably, Low, whose father is an optometrist, has not only authored dental legislation, he authored a 2017 bill extending sunsets for the State Board Of Optometry.

Assemblyman Low’s website reported: “AB 1708 – California Board of Optometry. Extends the sunsets for the California Board of Optometry (Board) and its authority to appoint an executive officer from January 1, 2018 to January 1, 2022; redefines the term ‘advertise’ to include the Internet for purposes of the Optometry Practice Act; and makes various changes to statute to improve the state’s oversight of the optometry profession and related eye health professions.” 

In spring 2019, the California Optometric Association named Evan Low its “Legislator of the Year” and Low’s father “Key Person of the Year.” 

And the California Optometric Association Twitter feed announced this: @COA_Vision in 2019.

The award did not go unnoticed:

Low also authored AB 1831, a 2016 bill mandating insurance coverage for early refills of eye drops, co-sponsored by the California Optometric Association. However, AB 1831 was vetoed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown.

Since 2015, Low has taken at least $54,568.74 in campaign contributions from Optometry interests, according to the California Secretary Of State website.

 

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3 thoughts on “Assemblyman Evan Low’s Legislation: Conflict of Family Interests?

  1. Wow, Katy, what a GREAT piece of journalistic detective work on Asm Evan Low’s motives for this latest odd and suspicious piece of proposed legislation. I had a feeling this guy was up to no good again.

    So let me get this straight: There’s not only an “orthodontist in the family” but a significant dental industry cash infusion into Low’s campaign coffers and to pay for exotic travel and other perks. And as if that’s not enough, Low has performed the same legislative tricks seemingly on behalf of his optometrist father and received similar injections of campaign cash for those actions too.

    Does such blatant “conflict of interest” matter anymore to cause such corrupt bills to be immediately thrown out when someone calls foul? Sure hope so, because if Low’s only sin were to use the legislative process to benefit his family that would be bad enough, but these shenanigans have the the potential to hurt the public, too, and sometimes in a devastating way, as you have pointed out.

  2. Evan Low is bought and paid for. He is a paid lobbyist who has a vote in the Assembly. I’m sure his family is proud.

  3. Somebody got a Law passed that makes Optometry prescriptions have a 2 year life, you must get a new eye exam after 2 years, I don’t see why this needs to be mandatory. Ms. Grimes I’d be real curious if the County’s in the State are considering Vector Control an essential service?

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