Friday, August 10, 2018

August 10, 2018--Country Club Republicans

Rona said, "You'll see. It's all about money."

"What are you talking about?"

"The news that three of Trump's Mar-a-Lago pals are essentially running the Department of Veteran Affairs. They were talking about it last night on CNN and MSNBC. The details are from an investigative report that was posted on ProPublica's website--'The Shadow Rulers of the VA.'"

"Three pals?"

"Yes. Bruce Moskowitz is a Palm Beach doctor who helps wealthy people obtain high-end 'concierge' medical care; a Washington fixer lawyer, Marc Sherman; and the leader of the band of three, Ike Perlmutter, the very weird head of Marvel Entertainment. The comic book people. Perlmutter is so secretive that he showed up once in a disguise at the premiere of a Spider Man movie. FYI--it wasn't a costume-party opening."

"This is just too much. But with Trump nothing surprises."

"None of these guys ever served in our military and thus are not veterans. In fact, it appears that they haven't even been involved in veterans' affairs, including raising money for vets' organizations."

"But . . ?"

"But, one night at Mar-a-Lago, where for $250K a year they are members, they appear to have sold the idea to Trump that he empower them to effectively run the VA. To let the senior people there know that these fellows are in charge and that even the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should see himself as reporting to them. The pitch seems to have included that the VA is such a mess that normal Washington bureaucrats are incapable of reforming it. Which, I suppose, could be true."

Here is a sample from the ProPublica article--
Hundreds of documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and interviews with former administration officials tell [the story of their involvement]--of a previously unknown triumvirate that hovered over public servants without any transparency, accountability or oversight. The Mar-a-Lago Crowd [as they are called, operating from the country club itself] spoke with VA officials daily, the documents show, reviewing all manner of policy and personnel decisions. 
They prodded the VA to start new programs, and officials travelled to Mar-a-Lago at taxpayer expense to hear their views. “Everyone has to go down and kiss the ring,” a former administration official said. 
If the bureaucracy resists the trio’s wishes, Perlmutter has a powerful ally: The President of the United States. Trump and Perlmutter regularly talk on the phone and dine together when the president visits Mar-a-Lago. “On any veterans issue, the first person the president calls is Ike,” another former official said. Former administration officials say that VA leaders who were at odds with the Mar-a-Lago Crowd were pushed out or passed over. Included, those officials say, were the secretary (whose ethical lapses also played a role), deputy secretary, chief of staff, acting under secretary for health, deputy under secretary for health, chief information officer, and the director of electronic health records modernization. 
The article continues-- 
The Mar-a-Lago Crowd bombarded VA officials with demands, many of them inapt or unhelpful. 
They proposed inviting private health care executives to tell the VA which services they should outsource to private providers like themselves. It was precisely the kind of fox-in-the-henhouse scenario that the VA’s defenders had warned against for years. [Former VA Secretary] David Shulkin delicately tried to hold off Perlmutter’s proposal, saying the VA was already developing an in-house method of comparing its services to the private sector.
Rona said, "Now about the money. It's one thing to think about these three Mar-a-Lago cronies voluntarily offering their services to the president--others such as Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and Nixon had informal advisers, mainly from the business and academic communities--but this is unprecedented. That private citizens would effectively run a mammoth government agency with no oversight whatsoever." 
Rona added, "But in this case it appears that Moskowitz's son has had an inside track to securing VA contracts to, for example, improve their computer systems and in other instances playing an important role in determining what parts of the VA operation should be privatized. This involves billions of dollars. Again, it is going on without the required transparency."
"One thing you can say about Trump," I said, "He's the most inventive president ever in figuring out how to be corrupt."
At Mar-a-Lago: Reince Priebus, Trump, & Ike Perlmutter

Labels: , , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home