Watchdog Files Ethics Complaint Against Commerce Secretary For Inappropriate Business Contacts

Watchdog Files Ethics Complaint Against Commerce Secretary For Inappropriate Business Contacts

  • June 19, 2024
Secretary Raimondo appears to have engaged in ways that could benefit hubby’s “very cool start up.”

Protect the Public’s Trust (PPT) has filed an ethics complaint calling for an ethics investigation of Biden Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. In documents obtained through a FOIA request PPT found evidence that Raimondo and her husband may have run afoul of government ethics rules on numerous occasions.

Sec. Raimondo, a former Governor and Treasurer of Rhode Island, is married to Andrew Moffit, an executive and part-owner of a company called PathAI. When Ms. Raimondo was appointed, she filed a Disqualification Statement acknowledging that “I am disqualified from participating as Secretary in particular matters having a direct and predictable effect on the financial interests of PathAI, a company that makes medical diagnostic software, including matters affecting the company as a member of an industry sector or group.” [Emphasis added.]

But the documents show Ms. Raimondo didn’t avoid discussing her husband’s company or its industry. In a 2021 text to Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash), the secretary wrote: “Also sometime you’re in D.C. I’d love to have dinner with you and my husband. He works at a very cool artificial intelligence start up.” As the Washington Examiner reported, “as chairwoman of the Senate Commerce Committee, Cantwell oversees AI-related matters.”

A month later, Ms. Raimondo received an email from Helmy Eltoukhy of Guardiant Health, a biotech firm very much like her husband’s. “It was very nice meeting you and your husband Andy. Such a small world given the PathAI and Fialkow connections.”

Fialkow refers to venture capitalist and PathAI investor David Fialkow, who gifted the Raimondos three tickets to the 2021 Kennedy Center Honors and paid for a meal with an “estimated” value of $2,700.

And the Secretary’s AI schedule ramped up considerably in the spring and summer of 2023. In addition to calls with the heads of Microsoft and Apple and the CFO of Alphabet and Google, along with “Dinner with Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough,” her official calendar includes interesting appointments:

  • May 2023
    • 5/3/2023, “AI Prep Session”, “Prep for AI Meeting” and “Meeting with Miriam Vogel, President and CEO of EqualAI”
    • 5/4/2023, “White House AI Covening”; 5 pm, “Call with Tom Donilon, Chairman, BlackRock Investment Institute”; 6 pm, “Dinner with Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough”
  • June 2023
    • 6/23/2023, “Call with Ruth Porat, CFO of Alphabet & Google”
    • 6/29/2023, “Call with Tim Cook, CEO of Apple”
  • July – September 2023
    • 7/7/2023, “Monthly China Update & Briefing on *redacted*”
    • 7/12/2023, “Infomal Connecting – AI Meeting (Sun Valley Conference).” 10:00pm to 10:30pm, “Meeting with Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI
    • 7/21/2023, “White House AI Business Leaders Meeting, Jeff Zient”
    • 8/23/2023, “Virtual CEO Meeting re China”
    • 9/14/2023, 3:30pm, “Meeting with Harvey Schwartz, CEO, Carlyle and Vice Chair, China Center Advisory Boa(rd).” [typos in originals]

“I’m not sure what ethics rules are like in Rhode Island, but the Secretary seems to have had an unusually steep learning curve when she got to D.C.,” said PPT Director Michael Chamberlain. “At the very least these records highlight areas that are ripe for the IG to investigate. For instance, what are the odds that, after the intro she gave about her husband’s work at a very cool AI start-up, when Secretary Raimondo and Sen. Cantwell met for that dinner, the Secretary declared, ‘sorry I can’t talk about AI’? That doesn’t pass the laugh test. President Biden and his spokespeople have frequently made a point of promising his administration would be the most ethical in history, so it’s odd nobody explained to Sec. Raimondo what that actually meant.”