Obama nominee omitted ties to biotech
President Obama’s nominee at the Department of Homeland Security overseeing bioterrorism defense has served as a key adviser for a lobbying group funded by the pharmaceutical industry that has asked the government to spend more money for anthrax vaccines and biodefense research.
But Dr. Tara O’Toole, whose confirmation as undersecretary of science and technology is pending, never reported her involvement with the lobbying group called the Alliance for Biosecurity in a recent government ethics filing. The alliance has spent more than $500,000 lobbying Congress and federal agencies — including Homeland Security — since 2005, congressional records show.
Homeland Security officials said Dr. O’Toole need not disclose her ties to the group on her government ethics form because the alliance is not incorporated.
Analysts say the lack of disclosure reflects a potential loophole in the policies for the Obama administration, which has boasted about its efforts to make government more transparent. They also question lobbying laws that allow such a group to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars without the public knowing exactly how much money each of the companies that belongs to the group contributes, though such arrangements are permitted under the law.
Craig Holman, legislative director of the nonpartisan watchdog group Public Citizen, said the lack of disclosure « definitely and clearly runs counter to the intent of the law. »