(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
The Trump Administration tapped three members of Mar-a-Lago, President Trump’s golf and social club, to provide advice and recommendations to the Department of Veterans Affairs on issues of critical importance to America’s veterans. Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter, Palm Beach concierge doctor Bruce Moskowitz, and financial consultant Marc Sherman have no relevant experience or expertise, no U.S. military service, no government experience. And yet they have been empowered, under shroud of secrecy, to influence policies that affect millions of veterans, including with regard to the makeup of senior VA leadership, the future of VA health services, and an enormous contract for modernizing the VA’s electronic health records. In a breathtaking display of the Council’s influence, both of President Trump’s appointed VA Secretaries–first, David Shulkin, and then Robert Wilkie–felt compelled to fly down to Florida to meet the Council at the Mar-a-Lago Club. We filed suit with VoteVets to put an end to the Mar-a-Lago Council.
The Trump Administration’s decision to establish the Mar-a-Lago Council is yet another sign of its willingness to run roughshod over legal requirements at the expense of veterans. The Federal Advisory Committee Act requires transparency and accountability when outsiders provide advice and recommendations to the government. Yet the Administration has refused to inform the public about the actions of the Mar-a-Lago Council, allowing them to make policy behind closed doors. The Council’s existence is linked to numerous other scandals that have rocked the VA during the Trump Administration, including the firing of Secretary David Shulkin by tweet and his replacement with an unlawful Acting Secretary and the Administration’s broader push for privatization of critical VA health care services.
On behalf of VoteVets, we filed suit to shut the Mar-a-Lago Council down. Our lawsuit asserts that the VA has violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act by permitting the Mar-a-Lago council to exercise sweeping, and yet hidden, influence. We’re asking the Court to require the Council to disband, or alternatively, provide the records required by federal law.
We are currently awaiting the government’s response to our Amended Complaint, which we filed on December 6, 2018.
August 16, 2018
We filed suit on behalf of VoteVets, alleging that the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Mar-a-Lago Council are violating the Federal Advisory Committee Act.
November 16, 2018
The Department moved to dismiss our lawsuit.
Among other things, the government argued that the Federal Advisory Committee Act’s requirements do not apply because we allege that the Mar-a-Lago Council exerted too much influence.