August 10, 2018

Warren, Schatz Call for Investigation into Trump "Mar-a-Lago Cronies'" Secret Influence over the Department of Veterans Affairs

Trio with no Military or Government Experience Reportedly Wielded Widespread Decision-Making Power at the Federal Government's Second-Largest Agency

Text of letter to VA Inspector General (pdf)

Text of letter to GAO (pdf)

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies, Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) today asked the Inspector General of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate whether unqualified, unaccountable private citizens with no official government role or responsibilities had or continue to have any undue influence over VA decisions. The senators' request followed reports that a trio of President Trump's "Mar-a-Lago cronies" - Mr. Ike Perlmutter, Dr. Bruce Moskowitz, and Mr. Marc Sherman - "are secretly shaping the Trump administration's veterans policies."

"These accounts (...) if true, paint a disturbing picture of corruption and cronyism that is not only antithetical to transparent, accountable, and ethical government, but will make it more difficult for the Secretary to lead the VA in a way that allows him to exercise his independent judgment," wrote Warren and Schatz.

The ProPublica report contains numerous examples of potential ethics abuses and misuse of government resources for private gain. Mr. Perlmutter, the Chairman of Marvel Entertainment, used then-VA Secretary Shulkin to promote his own company.  Dr. Moskowitz reportedly pushed his idea for Apple and the VA to develop an application to help veterans locate medical services, but simultaneously recommended his son - who happened to develop a similar app - to serve as a technical advisor on the proposed project.

"Membership in President Trump's private club, alone, is not sufficient to have an informed opinion on the best way to deliver care and benefits to our nation's veterans," wrote Warren and Schatz.  "And membership in President Trump's private club should not give any individual the right to exert influence on decisions made by the VA that impact the over nine million veterans under its care."
Senators Warren and Schatz asked the VA Inspector General and the GAO to fully investigate the extent of the trio's past and present involvement in decisions related to the VA.