One of the first signs of trouble emerged in April. Politico reported that the Department of Veterans Affairs was moving forward with a multi-billion-dollar transformation of its digital records system -- before it ran into some behind-the-scenes trouble.
According to the report, Dr. Bruce Moskowitz, a West Palm Beach doctor, raised concerns about the software at the heart of the VA project. He shared those concerns with Ike Perlmutter, the head of Marvel Entertainment, whom Politico described as someone who "advises the president" on issues related to veterans. Before long, Politico reported, with the White House's approval, Moskowitz and Perlmutter were participating in conference calls with "the contracting team responsible for implementing the 10-year project."
Then-VA Secretary David Shulkin reportedly said of Moskowitz. "Who the hell is this person who practices medicine in Florida and has never run a health care system?"
The answer, it turns out, is that he's a member of the "the Mar-a-Lago Crowd." Pro Publica had a stunning report on this the other day.
[Moskowitz] is one-third of an informal council that is exerting sweeping influence on the VA from Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump's private club in Palm Beach, Florida. The troika is led by Ike Perlmutter, the reclusive chairman of Marvel Entertainment, who is a longtime acquaintance of President Trump's. The third member is a lawyer named Marc Sherman. None of them has ever served in the U.S. military or government.
Yet from a thousand miles away, they have leaned on VA officials and steered policies affecting millions of Americans. They have remained hidden except to a few VA insiders, who have come to call them "the Mar-a-Lago Crowd."
At times, the report added, the trio have done more than just create headaches for VA officials by ignoring government rules and processes. In some cases, Pro Publica added, "they used their influence in ways that could benefit their private interests."
The report went on to note that the triumvirate "hovered over public servants without any transparency, accountability or oversight." Moskowitz. Perlmutter, and Sherman reviewed policy and personnel decisions, and officials even "travelled to Mar-a-Lago at taxpayer expense to hear their views."
It sounds like the plot to a bad movie. Three wealthy members of a Florida resort have effectively overseen a federal cabinet agency for months, despite having no relevant experience, and despite no oversight or accountability of any kind, basically because they're pals with the president through the club he still owns and profits from.