Bleeding Cool has covered the recent career, public profile, legal battles, conflict at Marvel and Disney, political support, political influence, philanthropy, and actions in government of Ike Perlmutter, Chair of Marvel Entertainment, multi-billionaire and one of the biggest shareholders of Disney. From an immigrant Israeli soldier in New York, to sitting next to then-President Donald Trump for Thanksgiving Dinner, while Trump's own family and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross were seated elsewhere, it's been one hell of a controversial rise.
And it's his role in government, appointed to the Veteran's Affairs department after Trump won the Presidency, that has continued to cause the most controversy. Yesterday, he and two associates were accused of breaking the law by House of Representatives Democrats, Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney and Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano in a press release targeting Perlmutter, as well as his two fellow Mar-A-Lago members.
"Our joint investigation found that Ike Perlmutter, Marc Sherman, and Dr. Bruce Moskowitz, bolstered by their connection to President Trump's private Mar-a-Lago club, violated the law and sought to exert improper influence over government officials to further their own personal interests," said the Chairs. "The documents we are releasing today shed light on the secret role the Trio played in developing VA initiatives and programs, including a 'hugely profitable' plan to monetize veterans' medical records. The Committees' investigation demonstrates the need for Congress to pass the Federal Advisory Committee Transparency Act, which would ensure the American people know who is providing advice to federal policymakers and would require agencies to disclose whether individuals on advisory committees have conflicts of interest."
The release reports that in January 2017, Trump hired the three to "straighten out the VA" and help the then-VA Secretary nominee David Shulkin implement new policies, including a proposal to monetize veterans' patient data, with Trump stating that "Ike Perlmutter has been very, very involved." The press release states that "The Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) requires that groups advising the executive branch operate with transparency and a balanced approach. The Mar-a-Lago Trio refused to comply with this law and, with the knowledge of Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump (using a personal email account), and other top White House advisors, hid their efforts to influence VA policies from public view."
The release states that "documents show that President Trump and senior White House officials empowered this group of secret advisors" with Jared Kushner writing about Ike Perlmutter that he "is going to help us fox the VA. He is someone we trust 100%." He meant "fix", but hey. And that documents obtained by the Committee show that the Trio developed and implemented a range of plans to overhaul the VA and sought to outsource VA functions, including monetizing VA patient data through the development of a commercial platform for veterans' medical records. They state that in April 2017, Perlmutter wrote to President Trump to say that the Trio were "progressing on evaluating and understanding the vast problems and risks in the VA system and working as quickly as possible to reform them." While Perlmutter directed White House employees to cease working on projects overlapping with his group's efforts, writing "The expert team that I assembled and is sanctioned by the President will be proceeding with its efforts as planned. All other parallel efforts should stand down… Any items that relate to the transformation of the VA must be funneled through and managed by the expert team and should be coordinated with Dr. Moskowitz and Marc Sherman." They also cite Jared Kushner replying to Perlmutter, writing, "I really don't like this tone being taken with someone who is looking to help."
The release also adds that personal agendas were promoted, including "working with Marvel to set up a team of celebrity ambassadors" for a public awareness campaign on suicide prevention. Bleeding Cool previously covered revelations that Perlmutter personally arranged for Marvel characters to ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange for the campaign. Now we know that Perlmutter wrote to Secretary David Shulkin that "we have arranged to have a costumed character version of Captain America to appear on stage to help ring the bell, and a costumed character version of Spider-Man on the trading floor. We will also have a team on the floor distributing Marvel product to the NYSE employees."
Previously, in a statement to ProPublica who covered concerns regarding the role of the three, Perlmutter, Sherman, and Moskowitz said "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… "None of us has gained any financial benefit from this volunteer effort, nor was that ever a consideration for us" while the then-White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said that the three "have no direct influence over the Department of Veterans Affairs."
Just because Trump is no longer President, does not mean the Ike Perlmutter stories have stopped. Indeed, this feels like the beginning of a whole new chapter.