Opinion: Editorials

Did President Obama know about John Podesta's shady patron? Examiner Editorial

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Opinion,Editorial,Barack Obama,Center for American Progress,Center for Budget and Policy Pri,FDA,ACLU,John Podesta,Washington Examiner

Does President Obama approve of corporate criminality? He certainly has expended a great deal of energy condemning it throughout his political career, which makes something he did in 2013 all the more puzzling. Obama brought into his circle of most trusted advisers a consultant to the former CEO of a corporation responsible for illegal human experiments that killed three elderly people. John Podesta, the Obama adviser, was a highly-paid consultant to Hansjorg Wyss. Podesta and the Center for American Progress, the liberal non-profit he helped establish, have received millions of dollars from Wyss's HJW Foundation.

On Wednesday, the Washington Examiner's Richard Pollock reported that Wyss, a Swiss multi-billionaire who now lives in Wyoming, was the long-time CEO of Synthes, Inc., in West Chester, Pa. Synthes pleaded guilty in 2010 to criminal charges, paid $23.8 million in penalties and saw four of its top executives sent to prison. Wyss, though not named as an un-indicted co-conspirator, was referred to throughout the proceedings as “Witness number seven” and as “CEO and major stockholder.”

The patients themselves were unaware that they were being illegally experimented on in their final moments of life.

Without seeking prior FDA approval, Synthes conducted illegal human experiments from 2001 to 2004 that killed three patients while testing a compound called Norian XR for its usefulness in fixing damaged vertebrae. Relatives of the three victims only discovered the true cause of death years after the fact. The patients themselves were unaware they were guinea pigs for illegal experiments.

Wyss “directed that Synthes would not pursue FDA approval of Norian XR via an IDE [the FDA-required test process],” but “would press on with a ‘test market’ ” with surgeons that involved 60 to 80 surgical experiments, according to federal prosecutors. During his sentencing hearing, convicted Snythes executive Michael D. Huggins said, “the safer and lawful approval route was expressly rejected.” No wonder the federal judge who heard the case said the company's "pattern of deception is unparalleled.”

Wyss sold Synthes to Johnson and Johnson for $19.7 billion in 2012. Today, Wyss is an influential but obscure liberal philanthropist who has used his wealth to cultivate influential Democrats like Podesta. Wyss is a member of CAP's board of directors, which is chaired by Podesta. Podesta was White House Chief of Staff under President Clinton.

Wyss retained Podesta as a consultant, paying him $87,000 just before he assumed his present position in the Obama White House, according to financial disclosure forms. Wyss has contributed more than $110 million to 27 liberal activist groups since 2006, including the ACLU, Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, Planned Parenthood and the Nature Conservancy.

A White House spokesman declined to say whether the president knew of Podesta’s financial relationship with Wyss when he invited him to join his staff, or whether the chief executive was apprised of the Synthes deaths. Spokesmen for CAP and the HJW Foundation similarly refused to answer Examiner questions or say if they will return Wyss grants. Given Synthes’ brazen criminality, these are legitimate questions and Americans are entitled to answers from Obama and these liberal activists.

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