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Ranking Member Walz Responds To Reports Of Mar-a-Lago Shadow Rulers At Department Of Veterans Affairs

Aug 8, 2018
Press Release
In a letter, Walz asked VA Secretary Wilkie to provide Congress any and all communications between VA officials and Ike Perlmutter, Bruce Moskowitz, and Marc Sherman as well as records of official travel to Mar-a-Lago

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Ranking Member Tim Walz (D-MN), sent the following letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie requesting that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provide any and all communications between VA officials and Ike Perlmutter, Bruce Moskowitz, and Marc Sherman to Congress without delay. The letter follows news reports alleging that the three men, all members of President Trump’s private Palm Beach, Florida club Mar-a-Lago, have been secretly exerting sweeping influence over VA and the administration’s approach to veterans policy.

“This situation reeks of corruption and cronyism,” said Ranking Member Walz. “That is why I’m directing my staff to immediately open an investigation into the matter, starting by asking the Department of Veterans Affairs to hand over all correspondences between VA officials and the three men identified in the article without delay. If these revelations prove true, and VA is being secretly run from the shadows of Mar-a-Lago by individuals with no accountability to taxpayers and who have never served in the United States military or government, then that would amount to an unprecedented, disturbing, and profoundly unacceptable betrayal of our nation’s veterans. VA is the second largest government agency in the country and is the physical embodiment of the promise we made to veterans. It is not and never will be a vehicle for Trump’s Mar-a-Lago cronies to drive policy that benefits their private interests. VA exists to serve our veterans, their caretakers and survivors, and they deserve far better than this.”

The text of the letter is available below and online here:

The Honorable Robert Wilkie

Secretary

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

810 Vermont Avenue N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20420

 

August 8, 2018

 

Dear Secretary Wilkie,

 

We look forward to working with you to improve the delivery of health care and benefits to our nation’s veterans.

However, we are deeply concerned that three private individuals—all members of Mar-a-Lago, President Trump’s private Palm Beach, Florida club—who are not accountable to veterans or taxpayers and none of whom have served in the United States military or government, have been placed in decision-making positions in the Department without nomination by the President or Senate confirmation. Reports demonstrate they have been granted the power to significantly influence policies executed by the Department.

Mr. Ike Perlmutter, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Marvel Entertainment, LLC., Dr. Bruce Moskowitz, an Internal Medicine specialist, and Mr. Marc Sherman, an attorney without health care industry experience, are reported to have “spoke[n] with VA officials daily” and reviewed “all manner of policy and personnel decisions,” made at VA, according to a recent report published by ProPublica. They reportedly “prodded the VA to start new programs” and required VA leaders to “’…go down and kiss the ring,’” with that travel paid for by taxpayers.  They allegedly caused VA leaders who disagreed with them to lose their jobs or be passed over for promotions, and reportedly flouted government rules and processes in place to require transparency and accountability.

Some of their actions even support allegations that they may have used their influence for personal gain. Mr. Perlmutter arranged a VA Veterans Day event at the New York Stock Exchange—in which former VA Secretary Shulkin and other VA officials participated—where Marvel Entertainment was promoted. Dr. Moskowitz arranged meetings with VA officials and Apple to promote his son’s app, and arranged weekly conference calls to arrange for VA to continue the work of his non-profit.

These individuals claim they have “no direct influence over the Department of Veterans Affairs.” However, reports and actions taken by these individuals and VA leaders appear to contradict this statement. Therefore, we are opening an investigation into the extent of Mr. Perlmutter, Dr. Moskowitz, and Mr. Sherman’s influence over VA officials and the Department.

We request unredacted copies of any and all documents, records, memoranda, and correspondence to include electronic correspondence via email and text messages shared with or between any current or former VA employees (including former VA Secretary David Shulkin and the former acting VA Secretary Peter O’Rourke) and Mr. Perlmutter, Dr. Moskowitz, and Mr. Sherman.

We request unredacted copies of any and all documents, records, memoranda, and correspondence to include electronic correspondence via email and text message in which Mr. Perlmutter, Dr. Moskowitz, or Mr. Sherman, are mentioned or referenced, by current or former VA employees.

We also request copies of any and all records, notes, or minutes of meetings or conference calls in which Mr. Perlmutter, Dr. Moskowitz, or Mr. Sherman participated with VA employees, including any and all meetings with Apple Inc. and Mr. Aaron Moskowitz on the development of an app for locating medical services, and any and all meetings between Dr. Moskowitz, his relatives, and VA officials on development of a medical device registry or organization of the June 4, 2018 summit on device registries. 

Please provide all unredacted correspondence, including an unredacted copy of the VA ethics official’s opinion approving or disapproving former Secretary Shulkin’s participation in the November 7, 2017 event presented by Marvel Entertainment LLC., in which former VA Secretary Shulkin rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange. 

Please provide all unredacted documents, records, memoranda, and correspondence to include electronic correspondence via email and text messages related to any current or former VA employee travel to Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida. For each current and former VA employee who participated in official travel to Mar-a-Lago, please provide records of the date in which the travel took place; the reason for the visit and all correspondence to include electronic correspondence via email and text messages related to the reason for the visit; the documents, records, and correspondence pertaining to approval of the trip by VA ethics officials, VA Office of General Counsel, or the Office of the Secretary; and the total cost of each trip to the Government.

We also request copies of any and all documents, records, memoranda, and correspondence with or between Mr. Perlmutter, Dr. Moskowitz, and Mr. Sherman and current and former VA employees that have been provided to individuals and organizations via Freedom of Information Act request.

Please provide the Committee with the documents, materials, and lists of attendees by the close of business Friday, August 31, 2018. Provide the documents in electronic, soft-copy format. Do not alter the documents in any way, including but not limited to applications of redactions or a water mark. Only relevant documents and tangible things should be provided as part of the submission. Also provide the contact information for the individual(s) responsible for assembling the submission. This/These individual(s) shall certify and attest to the accuracy of the submission.

The deliverables opened by this request will not be closed until the Committee is sufficiently satisfied with the responses provided, including whether the formatting instructions have been adhered to. The Committee reserves the right to, at its discretion, order an alternative organization of the submission. The Department has a continuing duty to supplement the record by providing relevant documents and tangible things to the Committee until the matter is closed.

If you have any questions, please contact Grace Rodden, Minority Staff Director of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation, at grace.rodden@mail.house.gov or at (202) 225-9756. We look forward to your response.

 

Sincerely,

 

TIM WALZ                                        

Ranking Member                                                                    

Committee on Veterans’ Affairs                                             

U.S. House of Representatives                                   

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