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Dear Donald –
Conflicts of interest are a problem, and trading one conflict for another, murkier, less transparent one is unacceptable. That’s why I’m disturbed about the actions of your nominee for Secretary of the Army, Vincent Viola. Like most of your nominees, he’s a billionaire and has all the conflicts that come along with being ultra-rich in our society.
In an attempt to reduce apparent conflicts of interest, Vincent has been shopping around to sell his stake in Eastern Air Lines. This is admirable. Even though Eastern has had extremely limited connections with the Fedrral government directly (conducting a handful of flights for child refugees), the level of government regulation of he aviation industry could raise questions about whether he was using his influence and access to the White House to benefit his own financial interests.
The problem arises with what Vincent is doing with the Eastern investments. It’s been reported that he’s trying to make a swap for a stake in Seift Air. This position actually is an even larger conflict than Eastern, as Swift is a subcontractor on multiple Federal contracts, pulling in between $15-$18 million per year from those deals. And, as a subcontractor, there is not a Federal database which Clearly and transparently tracks the funding that flows to the airline. Even worse than having a financial stake in a government subcontractor is the fact that Swift Air primarily works to charter flights for deportations. As such, not only does he have a financial stake in directing Federal resources in a particular way, but there is a policy agenda that he can pursue, aligned with yours and Steve’s, to push for increased mass deportations and pocket the profits.
It’s a dangerous game we’re playing here, funneling taxpayer money into the pockets of billionaires to satisfy the xenophobic and white supremacist proclivities of other billionaires. All the while, the rest of us are trying to put food on the table.