The Weekly Fix: Transparency is What the Doctor Ordered

The fix is in. Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, has resigned due to significant financial conflicts of interest.

As director of the CDC, Dr. Fitzgerald made a professional commitment to decrease the number of smoking Americans and work to eradicate incidents of preventable disease and death. Yet, she held thousands of dollars of personal stocks in beer, soda, and tobacco companies.

According to Politico, Fitzgerald continued buying stocks in tobacco companies as recent as one month into her director’s position. The purchases included Japan Tobacco (which sells four tobacco brands in the U.S.), Merck & Co., Bayer, Humana, and US Food Holding Co.

This isn’t the first time Dr. Fitzgerald invested in tobacco companies that directly conflict with her career in public health. Before becoming the director of the CDC, Fitzgerald owned stock in five other tobacco companies: Altria Group Inc., British American Tobacco, Imperial Brands, Philip Morris International, and Reynolds American.

Dr. Fitzgerald was slowly divesting her interests in other food and drug companies that posed a conflict of interest, although ethical watchdogs complain she wasn’t selling them fast enough. Fitzgerald blamed the slow divestment on a “complicated stock portfolio.”

Even if holding these stocks is technically legal, it is wildly unethical. Government leaders should not have a financial stake in the policies they create and enforce. Holding onto lucrative stock portfolios tempts public servants like Dr. Fitzgerald to care more about their personal net worth than the general well-being of their fellow Americans.

It’s time to take a stand. The American people aren’t being heard by their representatives because the game is rigged. Government isn’t broken. It’s “fixed.”