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Tomorrow, the United States Senate’s Homeland Security Committee just might vote Tara O’Toole out of committee and send her to the floor for confirmation.The committee may want to look again. Nominated by Janet Napolitano, there is a late breaking disparity in Ms. O’Toole’s testimony — disparate enough to suggest she is hiding some very close times to John Murtha. And the tangled web of lobbyists, high dollars, and corruption just might infiltrate the Department of Homeland Security.Ms. O’Toole is the head of the very well respected Center for Biosecurity. According to written testimony to the United States Senate on June 10, 2009, in response to a question about ties between Ms. O’Toole’s Center for Biosecurity and a group called the Alliance for Biosecurity, Ms. O’Toole told the Senate
the Alliance for Biosecurity [is] a group initiated by the Center for Biosecurity in 2006. . . . The Center for Biosecurity receives no money from any member of the Alliance and funds all costs associated with running the Alliance out of our philanthropic funds. No biotech or pharmaceutical firm provides the Center with financial support of any kind.
Odd, in new written testimony to the Senate — testimony not even fully publicly available — Ms. O’Toole now claims there are no “financial connections” between the Center for Biosecurity and the Alliance for Biosecurity. In fact, Ms. O’Toole now disavows all connections between the Center and Alliance.Why?Well, let’s follow the money.Joel McCleary is a founding partner of Four Seasons Ventures. He is also a founder and company director at PharmAthene. James Ervin, another founder of Four Seasons Ventures, also lobbies for PharmAthene. Four Seasons Ventures is invested in PharmAthene.Ervin is a central figure in Murtha’s world. Those seeking access and money from Congressman Murtha go through Ervin.McCleary is an advisor to a proposed manufacturing facility the Department of Defense and HHS plan to build in Murtha’s district and also to the Center for Biosecurity, which is connected to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC).Here is where O’Toole comes back in.UPMC is a primary funder of the Center for Bioscience, in addition to being its founder.O’Toole runs the place, McCleary sits on the board, and Ervin gets money flowing to PharmAthene and various other projects.In turn, O’Toole tells the Senate that PharmAthene is on the board of the Alliance for Bioscience and, in fact, chairs the Alliance from what I’ve been told. But O’Toole, remember, having first testified to direct financial ties between the Alliance and the Center, now says there are none.More troubling, O’Toole says she is in no way connected to $30,000.00 in contributions flowing to Murtha from UPMC academics all in one day, but O’Toole just so happened to also give a large sum to Murtha on the exact same day. O’Toole says she was not aware that colleagues of hers at UPMC were all pooling money to give to Murtha on the exact same day she too gave the largest contribution she’d ever given to him.More troubling, it appears that PharmAthene, UPMC, the Center, and the Alliance all have common ties to Murtha through a lobbying group — an issue as yet unexplored by the Senate.There are way too many coincidences and way too many inescapable conclusions to think anything other than O’Toole is scrambling to hide some very troubling ties to John Murtha.The Senate should dig further before voting on Ms. O’Toole.