“The health and safety of Veterans isn’t a game for Trump’s Mar-a-Lago members to play with between rounds of golf,” an Iraq War Vet said.
A Veterans group has sued to stop a triumvirate of billionaires hand-picked by President Donald Trump among his wealthy Mar-a-Lago members who are reportedly serving as “shadow rulers” secretly calling the shots at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Democratic leaders demanded an investigation into a report by ProPublica last week that Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter, Palm Beach Dr. Bruce Moskowitz and attorney Marc Sherman are making hiring and policy decisions at the massive federal agency even though they have no experience serving in the military or government, nor have they gone through any Vetting or approval process.
ProPublica cited hundreds of pages of documents and interviews revealing several meetings and conference calls by the men with senior VA officials. The men spoke with officials daily, reviewing policy and personnel decisions, and often treated the administration like their own private company, except they didn’t understand the work, ProPublica reported. VA officials even traveled to Mar-a-Lago at taxpayer expense to meet with them.
VoteVets, an activist organization that says it represents 500,000 Veterans, filed a suit with the aid of the progressive group Democracy Forward to shut down what it called the “Mar-a-Lago Council” and “compel the Trump administration to fully disclose the role members of the president’s private golf club are playing in shaping decisions that affect millions of America’s Veterans,” said a statement.
The suit, filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, argues that the trio is “violating federal laws that regulate the ability of private interests to shape federal policy.”
“The health and safety of America’s Veterans isn’t a game for President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago members to play with between rounds of golf,” said Iraq War Veteran Will Fischer, VoteVets’ director of government relations.
The VoteVets’ suit, citing the ProPublica report, seeks to compel the Mar-a-Lago trio to disclose records of its activities and cease influencing the VA until it complies with the law. The suit also asks that any future meetings of the group be opened to public participation and that minutes of its meetings be kept. The Federal Advisory Committee Act sunshine law requires federal agencies to inform the public when they consult outside experts.
Last week, Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.), a ranking member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said in a letter demanding an investigation into the trio that the “situation reeks of corruption and cronyism.”
“If these “revelations prove true … that would amount to an unprecedented, disturbing, and profoundly unacceptable betrayal of our nation’s Veterans,” Walz added.
Walz’s letter to Veteran Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie called on the department to turn over copies of all communications VA leadership has had with the three Trump associates.
Perlmutter and Moskowitz have attended high-profile events at the White House, including the signing of new VA accountability legislation last year. At the time, Trump called the men “incredibly successful people” who “have an affinity for helping the Veterans.”
The White House insisted to ProPublica that the men have no direct influence.
A spokeswoman for the three men said the media has “misrepresented” their actions and used “selective emails to paint a distorted picture” of their efforts to “help the VA and America’s Veterans,” ProPublica reported. The trio’s work consisted of “volunteer efforts” and simply “recommendations” requested by the VA. The three did not try to influence policy or personnel, the spokeswoman insisted.