Democrats are demanding that the VA release communications with three wealthy Mar-a-Lago members who are reportedly puppeteering the agency.
A ProPublica report released last week alleged that three members of President Donald Trump’s private Florida club are operating as "shadow rulers" who have been exerting significant influence over the Department of Veterans Affairs. Ike Perlmutter, chairman of Marvel Entertainment; Marc Sherman, a lawyer; and Bruce Moskowitz, M.D., a Palm Beach physician, have been involved in direct projects and advising on personnel decisions—including for the agency secretary, according to the report.
Perlmutter, Sheman and Moskowitz were involved in both selecting and firing former Secretary David Shulkin, M.D., and met with newly instated Secretary Robert Wilkie shortly after he was named to the position on an interim basis, according to ProPublica.
Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., the ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, wrote in a letter (PDF) to Wilkie that he and his colleagues are “deeply concerned” that three men allegedly have such a level of influence within the VA. They are opening an investigation into the matter.
That's why I am requesting @DeptVetAffairs hand over all communications between VA officials and the three reported “shadow rulers” of VA. I am also asking VA to hand over all records of official VA travel to Mar-a-Lago. https://t.co/B6u8xskfEi— Rep. Tim Walz (@RepTimWalz) August 8, 2018
In a statement (PDF), Walz said the reports, if true, constitute “textbook corruption and cronyism.”
“If these revelations prove true, then the VA is being secretly run from the shadows of Mar-a-Lago by men with no accountability to taxpayers and who have never served in the United States military or government,” Walz said.
Walz requested that the VA turn over all communications between Perlmutter, Sherman and Moskowitz and any staffers at the agency, plus any records or notes from meetings or conference calls in which the three men participated.
The three men declined to be interviewed for the article but said in a joint statement that they volunteered their thoughts but did not intervene directly in any decisions. A White House spokesperson said Perlmutter, Sherman and Moskowitz have “no direct influence” over the VA.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, of California, said that Walz‘s investigation is crucial and called on the VA and White House provide him and his team with “unfettered access” to the documents need to complete the inquiry.
“The poisonous Trump culture of corruption, cronyism and incompetence is finally coming to light at VA, threatening the health and futures of millions of veterans, caregivers and their families,” Pelosi said. “Whether or not the president likes it, the Department of Veterans Affairs is an indispensable and cherished guardian of our veterans’ healthcare and benefits, not a second branch of Mar-a-Lago.”