News Releases

In a new letter, Senator Murray requests VA Secretary Wilkie evaluate influence of private individuals on VA policy, urges VA to end inappropriate practice 

Request follows recent reports that wealthy members of President Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago Club have interfered in operations at VA

Senator Murray: “The possibility private individuals, with no relevant expertise, may have steered critical VA decisions based on their own financial interests or to benefit them or their families is inexcusable”

Senator Murray also joined colleagues in calling for Senate oversight hearings to investigate influence of Mar-a-Lago members on VA operations

(Washington, D.C.)  – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, urged Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie to investigate the inappropriate influence of three members of President Trump’s private club – Mar-a-Lago – on VA policy, and to take steps to ensure these individuals are no longer in a position to improperly interfere in VA operations. Last week, ProPublica and The New York Times published reports detailing how wealthy Mar-a-Lago members Ike Perlmutter, Bruce Moskowitz, and Marc Sherman – none of whom are current or former U.S. government employees or servicemembers – have exerted substantial influence over policy and personnel issues at VA, including pushing out former VA Secretary David Shulkin and advocating for the privatization of VA. In a new letter, Senator Murray demanded Secretary Wilkie publicly disclose all projects, programs, and personnel changes which were influenced by these members’ inappropriate counsel, and requested additional information from VA to help Congress understand the extent of the Mar-a-Lago members’ improper interference.

“ProPublica’s reporting uncovered egregious violations of ethics, good governance, and the responsibilities of numerous government officials. This behavior is a violation of the trust of our veterans and our obligation to provide the best care and services for them.  The possibility private individuals, with no relevant expertise, may have steered critical VA decisions based on their own financial interests or to benefit them or their families is inexcusable,” said Senator Murray. “You and your staff must immediately take steps to ensure Mr. Perlmutter, Mr. Moskowitz, or Mr. Sherman are no longer in positions to influence VA policy.  You must additionally make public the projects, programs, and personnel changes on which their counsel has been inappropriately employed.”

Additionally, Senator Murray joined Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and other Senate Democrats in a letter to Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-GA) requesting Senate oversight hearings to further examine the inappropriate influence of President Trump’s “Mar-a-Lago Crowd” on recent VA policy and personnel decisions.

Full text of Senator Murray’s letter HERE and below:

August 17, 2018

The Honorable Robert Wilkie

Secretary of Veterans Affairs

Department of Veterans Affairs

810 Vermont Avenue, NW

Washington DC 20420

Dear Secretary Wilkie:

On August 7, 2018, ProPublica revealed that three individuals – Ike Perlmutter, Bruce Moskowitz, and Marc Sherman – none of whom are current or former U.S. government employees or servicemembers, have substantial influence over policy and personnel issues at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  I request you immediately evaluate the degree to which these individuals were able to inappropriately dictate VA policy and provide all requested information to Congress as it pursues its oversight responsibilities.

ProPublica’s reporting uncovered egregious violations of ethics, good governance, and the responsibilities of numerous government officials.  This behavior is a violation of the trust of our veterans and our obligation to provide the best care and services for them.  The possibility private individuals, with no relevant expertise, may have steered critical VA decisions based on their own financial interests or to benefit them or their families, is inexcusable. 

You and your staff must immediately take steps to ensure Mr. Perlmutter, Mr. Moskowitz, or Mr. Sherman are no longer in positions to influence VA policy.  You must additionally make public the projects, programs, and personnel changes on which their counsel has been inappropriately employed.  To that end, please answer the following questions or provide the requested documents.  To the extent the Department is unable to answer or does not have the requested information, I ask that you work with you interagency partners in order to produce the requested responses.

  1. Please provide the details for each trip by employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs to the non-governmental facility of Mar-a-Lago to meet with Mr. Perlmutter, Mr. Moskowitz, or Mr. Sherman.  For each trip, please provide the dates of travel, the length of the trip, the names and positions of each VA employee, and the purpose of the trip.  Additionally, please detail whether VA employees travelled commercially or on a private plane for each trip.
  2. Why and with what frequency did Mr. Perlmutter, Mr. Moskowitz, or Mr. Sherman participate in phone calls or meetings on official VA business?  Please provide documentation for each meeting or phone call in which they participated, including the dates and topics of each communication.  Please also provide the names and positions of the other participants, including both federal employees and contractors, for each phone call or meeting.
  3. What, if any, Department personnel changes were made due to counsel from Mr. Perlmutter, Mr. Moskowitz, or Mr. Sherman?  In what way was their input used in making personnel decisions, even if those decisions were not solely based on such input?
  4. What, if any, policy measures and program initiatives were or are currently being undertaken due to counsel from Mr. Perlmutter, Mr. Moskowitz, or Mr. Sherman?  Please specifically address their involvement on the contract to procure the VA’s electronic record-keeping software.
  5. Did Mr. Perlmutter, Mr. Moskowitz, or Mr. Sherman or members of their families benefit in any way, including financially, from any VA projects or initiatives since January 20, 2017?  Please detail any efforts to ensure these individuals and their families were not benefitting from the projects or decisions on which they were engaged.
  6. Are any of the VA projects or initiatives on which Mr. Perlmutter, Mr. Moskowitz, or Mr. Sherman advised connected in any way to monetary holdings or investments maintained by these individuals or members of their families, or businesses owned or operated by such persons?  Please detail any efforts to ensure these individuals and their families were not affiliated with businesses or investments connected to VA projects or initiatives.
  7. Are any of the VA projects or initiatives on which Mr. Perlmutter, Mr. Moskowitz, or Mr. Sherman advised connected in any way to monetary holdings or investments maintained by members of the Trump family, or businesses owned or operated by such persons? 
  8. As it relates to influence or interactions with Mr. Perlmutter, Mr. Moskowitz, or Mr. Sherman, at any time since January 20, 2017, have any Department official sought guidance from Department counsel or ethics officials, the Office of Government Ethics, or other government entities? 
  9. How will you work to ensure the public that the Department entrusted with care for veterans and servicemembers is not being improperly influenced by individuals or businesses entities operating in their own self-interest?

Thank you for your service, and your work on behalf of our veterans and servicemembers.  I look forward to working with you to rectify these issues and to ensure our veterans are always being put first.

Sincerely,