An IRS complaint filed against the wife of House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) by a conservative watchdog group has all the makings of a primer on how the Swamp operates.
The National and Legal Policy Center (NLPC) filed the complaint on May 20, noting that a charity and a for-profit consulting group run by Maya Rockeymoore Cummings have each received millions of dollars over the years from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. This foundation, created by the founder of Johnson & Johnson, is not officially affiliated with the pharmaceutical giant, but the two hold close ties. The foundation is a major shareholder in Johnson & Johnson, for example.
It does not take a Sherlock Holmes to spot the reasons to fear political corruption may be at play here. Elijah Cummings chairs a committee that is investigating the high prices of pharmaceutical drugs. Johnson & Johnson has been hit by a rash of lawsuits over allegations that it was a major player in exacerbating the opioid epidemic that has ravaged America. The company reported in April that its first-quarter earnings for 2019 had fallen by 14% in large part due to the high legal costs involved in battling these suits. It can use all the friends in high places it can find.
Red Flags Are Flying
“When a powerful chairman of a committee of the House of Representatives has a wife that is bringing in money from entities with interests before his Committee and she is not providing the transparency mandated by the IRS, there’s a serious problem,” Tom Anderson, director of the NLPC, told the Washington Examiner. “The potential for corruption in this situation is simply off the charts and can’t be understated.”
A look into examples of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s financial largesse to Mrs. Cummings’ organizations does nothing to dim suspicion. Her charity and for-profit business have received $5.2 million and $5.5 million respectively, from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In Sept. 2016, the foundation announced it was awarding a $1.5 million grant to the nonprofit run by Rockeymoore Cummings, The Center For Global Policy Solutions, and its Allies for Reaching Community Health Equity program. In a press release posted on the center’s website, the foundation stated the grant would:
“Create a yearlong health equity initiative that seeks to strengthen families and communities and build a culture of health.’Allies for Reaching Community Health Equity’ (ARCHE) will advance equitable public health strategies across the social determinants of health that work to combat disparities by race, gender, geography, and income while building a culture that supports healthier kids and communities.”
Observe how vague the stated goals are. How exactly does one measure actual individual performance in building “a culture of health” for racial minorities? The ARCHE program can be found on the center’s website. Under “staff” there is only one listing: Maya Rockeymoore Cummings.
Slimmer Kids or Fatter Wallet?
The Examiner reported that Rockeymoore Cummings’ consulting firm received a $1 million federal General Services Administration grant in 2017 for a “Leadership for Healthy Communities” project to fight childhood obesity. As this grant was awarded, her nonprofit group claims to have “served as the national program office for Leadership for Healthy Communities.”
The IRS complaint filing states that this highlights how both the consulting business and nonprofit organization “appear to operate almost as a single entity, allowing for an illegal private benefit for Maya Rockeymoore Cummings and her husband.”
“The circumstances of this anti-obesity campaign prompt the question of whether its organizers are getting fat off the grants,” the NLRC acidly wrote in its filing.
In a statement released in response to the complaint, Mrs. Cummings defended her health outreach work, saying the federal contract and the grant money provided by the Johnson Foundation helped “states and localities advance healthy eating and active living initiatives in an effort to combat the nation’s growing childhood obesity epidemic.”
Rockeymoore Cummings declares on her nonprofit’s website that the center “equips leaders and organizations with the tools to effect change, driving society toward inclusion.” This hazy undertaking apparently takes multiple millions of Big Pharma-tied funding to achieve. Meanwhile, her husband just so happens to chair a powerful congressional committee that has government oversight of the pharmaceutical industry. Some would find this alarming. For denizens of the Swamp, however, it’s just another day at the office.
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