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Murtha Lackey About to Settle in at DHS?

The Washington Post reports that Tara O’Toole is poking around at the Department of Homeland Security, and apparently anticipating the Senate will confirm her nomination soon:

The Department of Homeland Security directorate of science and technology is moving office furniture around these days, apparently to fit more folks into available space. Buzz has it that the musical chairs is even going on in the suites on the Vermont Avenue side reserved for the top officials. We’re told that Tara O’Toole, whose nomination to be undersecretary of that operation is being held up in the Senate, has picked out some snappy blond furniture to grace the potential undersecretary’s office.

According to Senate sources, O’Toole’s confirmation vote is currently being delayed by a Republican hold.

O’Toole’s nomination is dogged by a number of concerns. As Amanda Carpenter reported not long ago, some have expressed concern over her past association with a Marxist group – which O’Toole suggests was not really Marxist:

…O’Toole, whose confirmation as undersecretary of science and technology is pending, came under fire from conservatives in 1993 when she revealed she belonged to a study group called the Northeast Feminist Scholars, originally known as the Marxist-Feminist Group 1…

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine asked Dr. O’Toole about the group, saying, “You had a controversy in your previous confirmation, that just for the record, because it’s likely to come up at some point again, I would just like to give you the opportunity to respond to…”

Dr. O’Toole said too much fuss was made about it. She said it was a “a group of academics, again, many of whom were economists. And they met three times a year for a weekend, and we discussed topics such as aging parents, math phobia among women, books that we read, international events and so forth. It did not do any political advocacy. It was not Marxist in any way, shape or form. But that had … been the title back in the ’60s and ’70s. And during my last nomination in 1993, when that came to light, some of the senators became concerned.”

According to reports, O’Toole also failed to reveal her ties to a drug industry lobbying group.

President Obama’s nominee at the Department of Homeland Security overseeing bioterrorism defense has served as a key adviser for a lobbying group funded by the pharmaceutical industry that has asked the government to spend more money for anthrax vaccines and biodefense research.

But Dr. Tara O’Toole, whose confirmation as undersecretary of science and technology is pending, never reported her involvement with the lobbying group called the Alliance for Biosecurity in a recent government ethics filing.

The alliance has spent more than $500,000 lobbying Congress and federal agencies — including Homeland Security — since 2005, congressional records show.

And as Erick has previously reported, O’Toole is an ally of John Murtha:

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’s also more about O’Toole at Wired.

Has O’Toole gotten word that the hold is about to be lifted on her nomination, or is she just arranging for an office at DHS because she’s a sunny optimist? We’re counting on Republicans in the Senate not to approve her without getting answers.

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