How a top Biden official’s conversations may have stood to benefit her husband’s interests

How a top Biden official’s conversations may have stood to benefit her husband’s interests

  • June 19, 2024

Gabe Kaminsky, Washington Examiner

EXCLUSIVE — On the morning of July 8, 2021, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo arrived in Washington state for a roundtable that evening with Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) on the need to grow minority-owned small businesses. Earlier that day, before the panel discussion with the powerful Senate Commerce Committee chairwoman, Raimondo had a phone call with Madrona Ventures, a Seattle-based firm that invests in artificial intelligence, according to a copy of Raimondo’s calendar.

This exchange and others between Raimondo and people connected to the AI space are at the heart of a new ethics complaint against Raimondo by Protect the Public’s Trust, a watchdog tracking alleged conflicts of interest. In the complaint, which was filed Tuesday afternoon with the Commerce Department’s inspector general, the nonprofit organization requested an investigation into Raimondo’s “seemingly improper” interactions about policy matters that could “affect the financial interests of her husband’s companies.”

Internal Commerce Department records notably list copies of a 2021 memo, from Raimondo to then-agency lawyer Quentin Palfrey, that said Raimondo would be disqualified as secretary from “matters having a direct and predictable effect on the financial interests” of PathAI. Moreover, the memo held that Raimondo was disqualified from involvement with matters “affecting the company as a member of an industry sector or group.” Raimondo listed in a recent financial disclosure report that her husband owned stock shares in PathAI and Sword Health, PPT said in its complaint.

PPT argued Raimondo’s relationship with Cantwell, which according to calendar records continued as the senator readied legislation related to AI, should be reviewed by the agency’s inspector general. As chairwoman of the Senate Commerce Committee, Cantwell oversees AI-related matters.

The watchdog’s complaint also highlighted an August 2021 text message from Guardant Health CEO Helmy Eltouhky to Raimondo. In the message, the businessman wrote that it was “very nice meeting you and your husband Andy.” Guardant Health is a biotechnology company using AI. It also, PPT argued, is linked to PathAI’s financial interests due to their focus in a niche sector.

“Plainly, such collaboration between officials at the highest levels of government and a select group of business leaders in the AI industry provide ample opportunity to develop policies favorable to PathAI and/or Sword Health, whether as individual entities or members of the AI industry,” Chamberlain wrote in the complaint, which cited federal ethics rules and Raimondo’s prior disqualification statement.

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