Democratic lawmakers said they have new information that allegedly shows the chief advisor to the Trump Administration’s COVID-19 “Operation Warp Speed” (OWS) is evading conflict of interest laws.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) announced Tuesday they obtained new information about how Dr. Moncref Slaoui, is evading federal ethics laws by working under a Health and Human Services (HHS) contract with a third-party contractor, “Advanced Decisions Vectors” (ADV) for one-dollar.
The lawmakers sent a letter to HHS in June demanding that if Slaoui is to be kept in his role as head the administration’s vaccine response, they must resolve his conflicts of interest and make him a federal employee who is subject to federal guidelines and ethics laws.
“Dr. Slaoui’s complicated arrangement is a clear attempt to circumvent federal ethics laws and allow him to maintain investment that would otherwise be illegal if he were properly brought into federal service,” the Democrats said in a written statement.
HHS’s response to the three democrats acknowledged the one-dollar contract with ADV but told the lawmakers that Slaoui will not gain financially from being a consultant on the project.
“The contract also contains specific language to address potential conflicts of interest and to ensure that Dr. Slaoui will not be in a position to gain financially from his participation as a consultant,” the enclosed document from HHS stated.
Dr. Slaoui worked as an executive for GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) pharmaceutical company where he is reported to still hold stock.
Democrats are concerned that his link to GSK will allow Slaoui to benefit financially from “Operation Warp Speed” or other related COVID-19 vaccines and said they are not satisfied with HHS’s response regarding the conflict of interest.
“We are also concerned that the steps HHS has taken to respond to Dr. Slaoui’s conflicts are unprecedented, inadequate, and deeply inappropriate because they allow him to avoid addressing his conflicts of interest,” wrote the lawmakers.
To get further information about the contract that Slaoui is under and to address the conflict of interest issue, the Democrats sent a letter to ADV on Monday.
In the letter, they asked for a copy of Slaoui’s contract with ADV. “We seek to more fully understand the nature of Dr. Slaoui’s OWS responsibilities and to investigate the degree to which Dr. Slaoui is permitted to gain financially from his role with OWS,” wrote the lawmakers.
They also reiterated that Slaoui is made a federal official so he could be held to strict ethical standards.
The three Democrats recently led an effort to introduce the Coronavirus Oversight and Recovery Ethics (CORE) Act. This legislation addresses conflicts of interest related to the federal pandemic response, by requiring those involved in the pandemic response to publicly disclose their financial records.