Acton Institute Powerblog

Biden admin official Eric Lander victimized more than just staffers

(Image credit: Associated Press)

Eric Lander, director of the Office of Science and Technology, resigned after it was disclosed he had disparaged and humiliated subordinates. To add insult to injury, he abused taxpayers, too. […]

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Allegations of abuse appear to be only the tip of the iceberg in the case of disgraced Biden administration official Eric Lander. According to Politico, the Office of Science and Technology Policy director faces scrutiny for failing to disclose financial interests in a major COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer while publicly advocating for vaccinations in his capacity as a top White House science adviser.

These conflicts-of-interest concerns arose just days after Politico reported that an internal White House investigation found “credible evidence” Lander regularly targeted subordinates for humiliation and disparagement. Lander has since announced his resignation, but the consequences of his workplace abuse run deep—not just for his subordinates but also for the taxpayers who paid his salary and provided millions of dollars for his department. It’s costly to leave dozens of staffers unable to perform their work properly and to recruit and train new staff to replace those who quit out of fear and frustration.

Taxpayers are victimized every time a government agent acts unethically or incompetently. The expectation of the social contract requires that those entrusted with the public’s money act in the public’s best interest and take that responsibility seriously. Like every elected official and bureaucrat, the taxpayers are Lander’s employer, not the government. Unsavory actions by a high-ranking Cabinet official are no less outrageous than sexual abuse committed by a TSA agent against a female passenger in 2019.

Ultimately, Congress and the president set the standard for how the federal government manages taxpayer dollars, which is perhaps why so many problems exist. When Congress shoveled COVID-19 relief funding at Americans, an estimated $100 billion of that money was stolen; felons also legally received money while behind bars from both the 2020 and the 2021 relief programs. Policymakers and bureaucrats were so focused on spending taxpayer money that they didn’t take the time or energy to invest in protecting it. And whether it’s $100 or $100 billion, whether it funds workplace abuse or criminals’ lifestyles, every government-funded outrage is an affront to taxpayers whose “leaders” aren’t doing their job.

“Congress rushed trillions of taxpayer dollars in Covid aid without ensuring the integrity of the payments,” said OpenTheBooks.com CEO Adam Andrzejewski, who recently wrote about money received by Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. “When serial murderers are allowed to collect stimulus checks, it points to a much larger problem.”

Without Politico’s reporting, Lander may very well have survived the abuse scandal, and the White House would have gone on with business as usual. Unfortunately for taxpayers, few members of Congress are willing to protect our pockets. It wasn’t fiscal conservatives, for example, who exposed how defense contracts often go to companies that commit fraud. That responsibility fell to Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), himself a supporter of expanding the fraud-laden Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Like Lander and the aforementioned TSA agent, contractor fraud is a powerful example of taxpayer victimization. On the surface, fraud is a misuse of funds that delays the completion of work. However, fraud wastes money; this often leads to taxpayer-funded investigations, which can result in taxpayer-funded jail time for offenders. And after all that, taxpayers still have to fund the original project’s completion for a second time.

Military spending may be down as a percentage of the overall budget, but the Pentagon seems to be making the same mistakes as Congress. European airplane manufacturer Airbus is in the running for a contract worth billions of dollars less than two years after paying a $4 billion fine for bribing government officials. The bribes took place over many years in multiple countries, earning the company $1 billion in illegal revenue that hurt U.S. interests. A recent lawsuit by Airbus investors has once again drawn attention to the company’s corruption, so it makes no sense for the Pentagon to open taxpayers’ pockets to such a company.

At the end of the day, Eric Lander is just a symptom of a system gone expensively bad. And whether a department has $5 million or $500 billion, each and every abuse is really a victimizing of taxpayers.

Dustin Siggins

Dustin Siggins is founder of the publicity firm Proven Media Solutions.