A vaccine maker under investigation for misrepresenting its involvement in Operation Warp Speed has hired lobbyist Jeff Ricchetti, whose brother will be the top White House counselor to Joe Biden.
Ricchetti’s firm, which he founded with his brother Steve, the incoming Biden adviser, registered as a lobbyist on Nov. 1 for Vaxart, a California-based biotechnology company that specializes in developing oral vaccinations.
According to lobbying disclosures filed with Congress, Ricchetti will lobby for Vaxart on “Legislative and regulatory policies regarding oral vaccine development and funding.”
Vaxart disclosed on Oct. 14 that federal prosecutors in California had subpoenaed the company as part of an investigation into whether it misled investors over its participation in Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration-led program to develop a coronavirus vaccine.
The company said in June that the government had selected it to test an oral vaccine on primates. The announcement sent Vaxart’s stock price soaring. The New York Times reported that Armistice Capital, which owns a substantial stake in Vaxart, booked a $200 million profit by selling shares of the company following the announcement about Operation Warp Speed.
According to the Times, the Department of Health and Human Services said that Vaxart’s participation in Warp Speed was limited.
Ricchetti’s lobbying disclosure does not mention the ongoing investigation into Vaxart.
Vaxart hired the firm, Jeffrey J. Kimbell and Associates, in August to lobby Congress and the White House on vaccine development issues.
The Ricchetti brothers co-founded their firm in 2001 after Steve Ricchetti left the Bill Clinton administration, where he served as deputy chief of staff. In that role, Ricchetti helped Clinton lobby Congress to pass a controversial trade deal with China.
Ricchetti Incorporated registered in August to lobby on behalf of Applied Materials, another California-based firm that produces semiconductor materials. Ricchetti disclosed that he plans to lobby the White House and other executive agencies on U.S. trade policy with China.
The Ricchetti brothers’ arrangement closely mirrors that of John and Tony Podesta, who co-founded the now-defunct lobbying firm, the Podesta Group.
John Podesta served as Clinton’s chief of staff, making him Steve Ricchetti’s boss.
The Podesta Group became one of Washington’s top lobbying shops during the Obama administration. John Podesta served as counselor to President Obama, the same role that Steve Ricchetti will serve for Biden.
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