Watchdog Alleges FDA Official Solicited Gift from Activists Before Joining Another Org

Watchdog Alleges FDA Official Solicited Gift from Activists Before Joining Another Org

  • June 4, 2024
Agency is silent on Crosby asking for event tickets.

Ethics watchdog Protect the Public’s Trust (PPT) today lodged an ethics complaint against Kathy Crosby, former Director of Health Communication and Education at FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products (CTP).

According to media reports, in April 2023, Ms. Crosby solicited an invitation to the Youth Advocate of the Year Awards Gala, an annual event hosted by the Center for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK). The event’s ticket prices were not listed in the email the report was based on, but the ticket price for the 2024 gala is $400.00. There was no indication that Ms. Crosby had been asked to attend the event for the purpose of presentation of official agency material. Records indicate that Crosby subsequently accepted a complimentary ticket to the annual gala. Under federal law, employees of an executive branch agency are generally barred from soliciting or accepting gifts from prohibited sources or gifts given because of a recipient’s official position. The definition of a gift includes complimentary tickets to events.

Although in the media report the FDA claimed Ms. Crosby had ethics officials’ approval to attend the gala, the FDA’s response did not appear to address the solicitation aspect of the incident. Whether or not FDA ethics officials approved her attendance at the gala, Crosby’s solicitation of an invitation suggests an intention to leverage her official position to avoid paying for a gala ticket, rather than attending the event in a manner consistent with ethical standards. If she failed to disclose to ethics officials that she solicited the ticket that could affect the ability of ethics officials to provide safe harbor for her apparent solicitation of a ticket.

Further, emails upon which the story was based show interesting timing related to her departure from CTP to become the CEO of the anti-tobacco organization the Truth Initiative. On May 22, 2023, Crosby emailed Robin Koval, then the CEO and President of the Truth Initiative: “I hope you’re well! I didn’t see you at last week’s CTFK gala but I got to catch up with several members of your team, which was awesome. Would you have time to catch up soon? I had a great conversation with Dr. Koh several weeks ago and I’m hoping we can connect. Please let me know.” They then set a meeting for the next day. Dr. Koh is presumably Howard Koh, a member of the Truth Initiative board of directors.

“Just another incident that causes the American public to raise a skeptical eye toward the Biden administration’s pledge to be the most ethical in history,” said PPT Director Michael Chamberlain, “It also represents yet another spin of the revolving door between the federal government and activist NGOs. Public trust in federal health officials has taken a nosedive in recent years with the influence of special interests and officials testing the boundaries of ethics obligations are certainly contributing factors.”