Hundreds of FOIA documents obtained by ProPublica reveal that three Mar-a-Lago members—including Marvel Entertainment chairman Ike Perlmutter (!!!)—have wielded outsized influence at the Department of Veterans Affairs, from pushing their own policy agendas that VA employees treat as “orders” to forcing out VA officials that aren’t aligned with their interests.
Reportedly called the “Mar-a-Lago Crowd,” Marvel chairman Perlmutter and his two cronies Bruce Moskowitz, a doctor in Palm Beach, and Marc Sherman, a lawyer, have been, according to ProPublica, intimately involved in the running of the VA, despite having no official government role and no credentials other than being rich, white, and connected to Donald Trump:
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.
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.
In a statement to ProPublica, Perlmutter, Moskowitz and Sherman disputed the allegations that they have been meddling in the running of the VA: “At all times, we offered our help and advice on a voluntary basis, seeking nothing at all in return. While we were always willing to share our thoughts, we did not make or implement any type of policy, possess any authority over agency decisions, or direct government officials to take any actions… To the extent anyone thought our role was anything other than that, we don’t believe it was the result of anything we said or did.” Administration officials echoed the three, with one spokesperson telling ProPublica that they “have no direct influence over the Department of Veterans Affairs.”
Still, the details unearthed by ProPublica’s investigation paints a disturbing portrait of their activities. “Everything needs to be run by them,” a former official told ProPublica. “They view themselves as making the decisions.”
You can read the full report here.