Emily Hargan was paid almost $50,000 to lobby on behalf of three medical companies. HHS says she is no longer lobbying the department.
The wife of the second-ranking official at the Department of Health and Human Services appeared with her husband during an official business trip — at a time she was being paid to lobby the department.
Emily Hargan tweeted a photo from a July 11th press conference at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center centered around a visit by her husband, HHS deputy secretary Eric Hargan. She has since deleted the tweet.
As first reported by STAT News, Emily Hargan has been paid by three health care companies to lobby HHS. According to lobbying registry disclosures. Between June and July she was paid $28,000 for lobbying by Nostrum Pharmaceuticals, $10,000 from Smart Meter, which sells blood glucose monitors to diabetics, and $10,00 from TL Management, which owns over 100 nursing homes.
Emily Hargan’s contract to lobby for Nostrum ended the day before she appeared with her husband on an official business trip. The other two contracts were still active. She has no lobbying disclosures before her HHS work in June of this year.
HHS said in a statement to BuzzFeed News that Eric Hargan has recused himself from dealings with any of the firms that paid his wife and has directed his immediate staff to do the same. HHS said Emily Hargan drove to the event in North Carolina in her personal vehicle because she had personal travel plans in the area and did not attend the nonpublic part of the meeting.
“This was the only time she has attended such an event and Mrs. Hargan is no longer lobbying,” said an HHS spokesperson.
Reached via her cell phone, Emily Hargan declined to comment. “I do not have any comment at this time. I thank you for your call,” she said.
Critics of the administration are questioning the unusual situation of a senior HHS official’s wife lobbying the department. Progressive group Patients Over Pharma said the Hargans appearing at an official event together shows that HHS Secretary Alex Azar is allowing open conflicts of interest under his watch.
“They can delete tweets but they can’t hide the reality of influence-peddling and self-dealing that is sadly all too common in this Trump/Azar health department,” said spokesman Eli Zupnick. “This is exactly the kind of conflict of interest that needs to be rooted out.”