ProPublica is reporting that a trio of the President Donald Trump’s friends, who meet at his members-only Florida club, are acting as informal cabinet members helping shaping policy at Veteran’s Affairs. This shadow cabinet consists of Bruce Moskowitz, a doctor who specializes in rich patients, Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter, and Marc Sherman, an attorney.
This group claims to only be offering informal advice. As ProPublica notes:
But hundreds of documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and interviews with former administration officials tell a different story — of a previously unknown triumvirate that hovered over public servants without any transparency, accountability or oversight. The Mar-a-Lago Crowd 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.
Access to VA policymaking allowed Perlmutter to use public events to promote his private interest. Thus in February 2017, David Shulkin, at the time secretary of the VA, participated in a Veterans Day event at the New York Stock Exchange that saw him “standing near a preening and flexing Captain America, with Spider-Man waving from the trading pit, and Marvel swag distributed to some of the attendees.”
A head of a veterans advocacy group told ProPublica, “Generally the VA secretary or defense secretary don’t shill for companies.”
On another occasion, ProPublica notes, Moskowitz “wanted Apple and the VA to develop an app for veterans to find nearby medical services. Who did he bring in to advise them on the project? His son, Aaron, who had built a similar app. The proposal made Apple and VA officials uncomfortable, according to two people familiar with the matter, but Moskowitz’s clout kept it alive for months. The VA finally killed the project because Moskowitz was the only one who supported it.” Moskowitz has also worked to stall a $10 billion contract for the VA to buy new record-keeping software from a firm called Cerner “because he used a different Cerner product and didn’t like it.”