Montgomery Council Jab Mandate Backer’s Wife is a Pfizer Lobbyist
Try this thought experiment.
Imagine for a moment that a legislator proposed requiring all employees working in his jurisdiction were mandated to use a specific product or else lose their job. And, then imagine that the legislator’s wife was a registered lobbyist for one of the required product’s few approved manufactures.
Conflict of interest, anyone?
This describes Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Reimer. He joined with two colleagues to introduce Bill 34- 21E, which would mandate that Montgomery County government employees be vaccinated against COVID-19. The law would require employees to either prove to the County that they are fully vaccinated or apply for and receive medical accommodation.
At the same time, Riemer’s wife, Angela Riemer, is a long-time registered lobbyist for Pfizer. The pharmaceutical giant makes one of the three COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for use in the United States.
Unsurprisingly, the County’s public employee unions called out Riemer. The International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 1664; Fraternal Order of Police FOP Lodge 35 and United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Local 1994 MCGEO called attention to Reimer’s conflict. They wrote: “Before Mr. Riemer holds forth on anything promoting the approved Pfizer vaccine, the public deserves to know the extent of his connection to the firm and any possible conflicts of interest that may arise. Is he striving to protect the public health or to appease the source of a majority of his household income?” [i]
The three unions raised several pertinent questions, requiring Riemer to disclose his financial connections to Pfizer more fully.
- How much money comes into his household from Pfizer? His financial disclosure shows executive salary from, and stock holdings in the company for 2020, but totals are not listed.
- How much are his stock holdings worth now in 2021 after another year of stock price growth?
- Has his household received any corporate bonuses from Pfizer for job performance? [ii]
These very reasonable questions never got an answer. Instead, Riemer requested on Oct. 13 that the Montgomery County Ethics Commission opine on the matter. The Commission, chaired by Susan Beard, gave Reimer a pass five days later.[iii]
Ethics Chair Beard’s conclusion should not be surprising to those familiar with her career.
When Beard was nominated in 2016 to be the U.S. Department of Energy Inspector General, she encountered bipartisan skepticism. The Project on Government Oversight, commenting on her nomination, said: “Ms. Beard has worked within the Energy Department’s General Counsel’s Office for over 27 years, which has some Senators questioning whether she’ll be more of a lapdog than a watchdog.”[iv]
Republican Senator Barrasso (Wy) opposed Beard’s nomination because while she bore had “the responsibility to ensure that DOE [Energy Department] complies with the miscellaneous receipts statute.” “During her tenure, DOE has transferred about $2 billion of excess uranium in violation of this law. Beard’s recent testimony [v]indicates that she helped establish the key precedents for these ongoing violations.” [vi] Democratic Senator Ron Wyden even questioned Beard’s professional qualifications.[vii]
The U.S. Senate never confirmed Susan Beard, but nevertheless, she now serves as Montgomery County Ethics Commission Chairman.
In turn, this “more of a lapdog than a watchdog” blessed Hans Reimer’s Pfizer conflict of interest.
[vi] 6-9-16-barrasso-to-beard.pdf (senate.gov); https://www.barrasso.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/d89acf22-dc0b-47b9-846d-e548661230f8/6-9-16-barrasso-to-beard.pdf; 6-9-16-barrasso-to-beard.pdf (senate.gov)
[vii] S. Hrg. 114-473, THE NOMINATION OF SUSAN FAYE BEARD TO BE INSPECTOR GENERAL AT THE DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY; https://www.congress.gov/event/114th-congress/senate-event/LC44846/text “Sen. Ron Wyden: But so much of what IGs are tasked to do relates to the auditing that goes on. Looking at your background I do not see anything that relates to direct auditing experience. So if you can give me either anything that you might think would be helpful in that regard in terms of your experience or inform me how you would intend to manage a group of professionals who perform these audits and inspections and evaluations without having performed such roles yourself?
Ms. Beard. Thank you very much for the question, Senator. Well, I’ve never been an auditor. I’m not an accountant. I do have a background in a lot of appropriations areas which does have some similar aspects to it.”