Washington, D.C. Aug. 16, 2018 – Today, on behalf of VoteVets, Democracy Forward filed a lawsuit to shut down President Trump’s ‘Mar-a-Lago Council’ and compel the Administration to fully disclose the role members of the President’s private golf club are playing in shaping decisions that affect millions of America’s veterans.
The new suit asserts the Mar-a-Lago Council is violating federal laws that regulate the ability of private interests to shape federal policy. In flouting these rules, the Council has exercised sweeping, unlawful influence at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) over critical issues, such as the makeup of VA leadership and the privatization of VA health care services.
“The health and safety of America’s veterans isn’t a game for President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago members to play with between rounds of golf,” said Will Fischer, Iraq War Veteran and Director of Government Relations for VoteVets. “It’s not just insulting that veterans were forced to sue the Trump administration to have a voice in its veterans policies, it’s dangerous, because we don’t know what other private interests may be affecting life and death decisions of veterans, under the shroud of darkness.”
Newly reported emails show that since President Trump took office, the Mar-a-Lago Council — consisting of Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter, Palm Beach concierge doctor Bruce Moskowitz, and Marc Sherman, a private lawyer — have wielded unprecedented influence over the Administration’s decisions. Through at least 25 meetings and conference calls with senior VA officials, including private meetings held inside the Mar-a-Lago Club, the Council has shaped the Trump Administration’s veterans policy despite having no government or U.S. military experience.
In a stunning 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.
“Even for this Administration, the shamelessness and flagrancy of the Mar-a-Lago Council’s illegal operations are stunning,” said Democracy Forward Executive Director Anne Harkavy. “America’s veterans deserve what federal law guarantees them: professional leadership by qualified public servants who understand their concerns.”
The Council’s existence partially explains other scandals that have rocked the VA during the Trump Administration, including the firing of Secretary David Shulkin by tweet and the Administration’s broader push for privatization of critical VA health care services.
The suit was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
VoteVets.org continues to focus on matters including, but not limited to, foreign policy, energy security, veterans’ unemployment, and opening military service to life-long Americans born to undocumented immigrants, as well as continued investment in care for veterans.