In a hot-mic moment, Dr. Anthony Fauci called Sen. Roger Marshall a “moron” after the Kansas Republican asked Fauci to publicly release “a financial disclosure form.”
Marshall appeared unaware that federal law already requires Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to submit an annual financial disclosure report — similar to members of Congress — and those reports are publicly available.
The exchange went like this:
Marshall, Jan. 11: As the highest-paid employee in the entire federal government, yes or no, would you be willing to submit to Congress and the public a financial disclosure [form] that includes your past and current investments? After all, your colleague Dr. [Rochelle] Walensky and every member of Congress submits a financial disclosure that includes their investments.
Fauci: I don’t understand why you are asking me that question. My financial disclosure is public knowledge and has been so for the last 37 years or so, 35 years.
Marshall: The big tech giants are doing an incredible job of keeping it from being public. We’ll continue to look for it. Where would we find it?
Fauci: All you have to do is ask for it. You are so misinformed it’s extraordinary. All you have to do is ask for it.
Fauci is right. We know because last year we asked for Fauci’s most recent financial disclosure form and obtained a redacted copy of his 2019 report.
Fauci’s Report and What It Says
The Ethics in Government Act of 1978, which was enacted in response to Watergate, requires certain federal employees to file annual financial disclosure statements on or about May 15 of each year. The U.S. Office of Government Ethics, which was created by the 1978 ethics law, oversees the financial disclosure system.
As the Congressional Research Service explained in an Aug. 17 report on the financial disclosure law, reports filed by “the most senior officials in the executive branch — the President, Vice President, and appointees and nominees to positions classified at Level I and Level II of the Executive Schedule — are available directly from the OGE website.” That would include, for example, Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, whom Marshall referenced in his remarks, because she is a presidential appointee subject to Senate confirmation.
CRS goes on to explain, “All other public financial disclosure statements can be accessed using OGE Form 201. For 2020, OGE reported that there were 26,889 public filers.” That would include Fauci.
(Financial disclosure reports for some federal employees remain confidential, but Fauci isn’t among them. Confidential financial disclosure reports are filed by public officials who are “classified at or below GS-15 or do not meet the pay or classification threshold for public filing,” CRS said in its report. Fauci, as Marshall said, is a highly paid employee.)
OGE provides information on its website about who files and how to access their reports. It’s a multistep process that could be made a lot more user-friendly, but we followed the directions and obtained Fauci’s report.
As directed, we first sent an email requesting Fauci’s financial disclosure form to Ethics.FinancialDisclosure@hhs.gov at the Department of Health and Human Services. We got a response that said, “For your request for copies of Dr. Fauci’s financial disclosures, you will need to complete the attachment, sign, and submit your request to the NIH FOIA office at firstname.lastname@example.org.” That attachment was OGE Form 201.
One business day after submitting our request to the National Institutes of Health’s FOIA office, we received a redacted version of Fauci’s 42-page report that covered his financial activity for 2019. The form was signed by Fauci on April 21, 2020, and certified by an agency ethics officer on May 18, 2020.
Such forms include information on the filers’ assets, income, employment agreements, transactions, liabilities, and gifts for themselves, their spouse and dependent children.
Fauci’s 2019 report shows he is invested in money markets, bond funds and equity funds, and provides the amounts of unrealized gains or losses for those accounts in 2019. It shows investment gains, for example, of $390,000 in CIBC Atlas Disciplined Equity Fund. Most of his funds appeared to be managed by Fauci’s Schwab One Trust Account.
Marshall’s line of questioning suggested that Fauci may be hiding a conflict of interest. But the purpose of the annual disclosure forms is to allow designated agency ethics officials, or DAEOs, to review the reports for conflicts and take action, if necessary.
“If upon review the DAEO determines a conflict of interest exists, they can, if necessary, negotiate with the filer to remedy the conflict,” the CRS said in its report. “There are several remediation options … including recusal, divestiture, resignation, waiver, or the establishment of a qualified blind or diversified trust.”
So, when it comes to Fauci’s financial disclosure forms, the senator was wrong when he said “big tech” is “keeping it from being public.” The federal law does not require OGE to post Fauci’s annual report on its website, but his annual reports are available to the public by filling out and submitting OGE Form 201 — as we did last year.
In an after-the-fact press statement, Marshall’s office said, “Contrary to what Dr. Fauci said, Dr. Fauci’s financial disclosures for the years of the COVID pandemic are not public. Therefore, Senator Marshall requested them during today’s hearing.”
But that is not what Marshall requested at the hearing. He requested the same financial information that is reported by “your colleague Dr. Walensky and every member of Congress.” Fauci follows the same reporting rules as Walensky and similar rules as Congress.
For the record, Marshall’s financial disclosure report for calendar year 2020 is available on the Senate website. His form is a lot easier to access, and we welcome any effort that Marshall and other members of Congress might undertake to make executive branch disclosure forms more readily accessible.
Update, Jan. 16: At Marshall’s request, the NIH provided copies of Fauci’s largely unredacted financial disclosure forms covering the calendar years 2019 and 2020. Marshall’s office posted copies of the forms on its website on Jan. 14 — two days after the senator submitted his request.
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