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Monday, December 09, 2019

Congress Pressing Probe Of Mar-A-Lago Influence Peddling

The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee is broadening its investigation into the growing scandalaround wealthy members of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort who have exerted undue influence on American veterans policy, despite having no official government position and no experience with veterans issues.

Until recently, the scandal centered around three Mar-a-Lago members in particular — but a recent report from ProPublica offered evidence that the problem was even more widespread.

That’s why Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA), chair of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, sent a letter late last week to the Department of Veterans Affairs demanding to know just how deep the corruption goes.

ProPublica reported that a cosmetic dentist with no known experience in government or the military wrote a note on Mar-a-Lago stationary to Trump (whom the dentist affectionately referred to as “King”), advocating for a new committee to partner with the American Dental Association to oversee federal spending related to veterans, Native Americans, and poor children.

Trump not only read the letter, but also apparently ordered his staff to send the letter to the head of the Veterans Affairs department.

In his letter to the VA, Takano demanded any and all documents the department has that indicate influence from Mar-a-Lago. Takano told the department to turn over “any documents or communications on stationary bearing the name, ‘The Mar-a-Lago Club,” as well as any and all “documents or communications sent or received from members or associates of the Mar-a-Lago Club in the possession of the Department.”

Takano wrote that he is alarmed by the volume of influence peddling by wealthy Mar-a-Lago elites “over policy, personnel, and program decisions of the Department of Veterans Affairs.” Trump often spends long weekends at the club he still owns and where members — who must pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to join the club — have intimate access to him and his advisers.

Prior to this new development, Takano was already investigating the so-called “Mar-a-Lago three,” a triumvirate of members who seemed to exert influence over the VA despite having no official position within the government. According to a previous ProPublica investigation, the men — Ike Perlmutter (chairman and CEO of Marvel Entertainment), Bruce Moskowitz (a doctor), and Marc Sherman (an attorney) — reviewed confidential, multi-billion projects on record-keeping, even though none of the men have any relevant experience.

In 2018, voters demanded that Trump and his culture of corruption be held accountable. Takano is heeding that call, and veterans groups are praising the effort.

The committee’s work “is absolutely crucial to getting to the bottom of this, and all veterans should encourage him to continue,” said Jon Soltz, chairman and co-founder of Vote Vets. While Vote Vets has its own lawsuit regarding this matter, Soltz added, “congressional oversight is indispensable.”

Unfortunately, Takano said, rather than cooperate with Congress, the Trump administration “keeps stonewalling our document request.”

“It’s time for transparency — our veterans deserve to know who is making their healthcare decisions,” Takano said.

Published with permission of The American Independent. 

 

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