Maybe Scott Gottleib thought he could avoid scrutiny by making the move to the board of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer just over two months after leaving his position as President Donald Trump's commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration—but if so, he didn't count on Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
"Philosophically, [Gottleib is] returning to the ecosystem where he's most comfortable. And he'll get paid very well for it, too."
—Sidney Wolfe, Public Citizen
Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts who is also running for her party's nomination for president in 2020, released a letter (pdf) Tuesday morning calling on Gottleib to step down from the board in the name of government ethics.
"You will be on the board of a company that has billions of dollars at stake in the decisions made by the agency you used to head and the employees you used to lead," states Warren's letter.
It's a profitable venture for Gottleib.
"According to Pfizer," Warren notes, "board members in 2018 were paid $142,500 in cash retainers, plus received $192,500 worth of Pfizer stock."
Appointed by Trump, Gottleib was the head of the FDA from 2017 until he resigned on April 5 of this year. After leaving the government, he took a job with right-wing think tank The American Enterprise Institute. The move to Pfizer, however, came later and was only announced on June 27.
In Warren's letter, which Common Dreams obtained exclusively and is reproduced below, the senator refers favorably to Gottleib's work with the FDA before hitting him on joining Pfizer and tying that move to the behavior of other officials in President Donald Trump's White House who have left the administration for big money payouts.
"You are the second high-level Trump Administration official in less than two months to join the board of a corporation soon after leaving government service," reads the letter. "In May 2019, former Trump Administration DHS Secretary and Chief of Staff John Kelly joined the board of Caliburn, Inc., the parent company of the Comprehensive Health Services, which runs the notorious Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children in Florida."
"You should rectify your mistake and immediately resign from your position as a Pfizer board member," Warren adds.
Warren's letter cites her Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act as a possible solution to government officials behaving in this way in the future. As Common Dreams reported in June, Warren and the legislation's sponsor in the House, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), see the problem as systemic to Washington's public-private revolving door. Rep. John Sabarnes (D-Md.) is co-sponsoring Jayapal's version of the law.
Gottleib's move to Pfizer was also noticed by Public Citizen Health Research Group co-founder Sidney Wolfe.
"This is classic and it's not surprising," Wolfe told health news site Stat. "Philosophically, he's returning to the ecosystem where he's most comfortable. And he'll get paid very well for it, too."
Read Warren's letter: