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    Thursday, April 18, 2024

    Pandemic profits linked to Connecticut's first couple

    Kudos and credit for everything I'm about to share should be directed towards Tony De Angelo, managing director of the Connecticut-based Paragon Trust Company.

    Tony is a weekly contributor to my radio show, and since the onset of COVID-19 has doggedly pursued questions about the myriad and nebulous financial dealings of Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, his wife Ann, her Hedge Fund Oak HC/FT, and those in his orbit. Without Tony's unyielding investigation much of this information would have gone unseen.

    Oak HC/FT is a premier venture growth equity fund investing in health care information and financial services technology, according to its website. We know from viewing the Oak HC/FT website that Sema4 is a startup biotech corporation owned and propounded by Oak HC/FT. Sema4 received a no-bid contract from Connecticut for COVID-19 testing at an undisclosed price, as outlined in a June 2020 Hartford Courant article. And even as pressures mounted concerning this ostensible matter of self-dealing, the governor’s Chief Operating Officer Josh Geballe, caustically reminded us that we were fortunate to have Sema4 as a partner against the virus.

    Lamont and his wife acquiesced sometime thereafter that it was their “wish to donate any benefit” they received from Sema4 to charity, a promise that the state itself ruled to be non-binding. With no less than four Oak HC/FT funds extant, two of which operate in the infamous secrecy of the Cayman Islands, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings, unsettling questions persist as to who exactly benefits and what other players and entities are involved within the peripheral vision of our governor.

    I am sure that Lamont believed that the seemingly magnanimous gesture of “wishing to donate any benefit” would put an end to any controversy. However, after receiving almost $35 million directly from state coffers per the state’s “Open Checkbook” for unidentifiable goods and services, Sema4 announced a merger with a private “special purpose acquisition company” named CM Life in a public offering expected to bring $2 billion. The Sema4 shareholders did well by walking away with $343 million on the first day of the offering, according to the Hartford Business Journal. That is a tidy payday for those in the inner circle receiving the benefit of free state tax dollars leading to the enormous profits.

    Another Oak HC/FT entity piquing interest is “Truepill,” a virtual pharmaceutical firm, that delivers medication to homes prescribed by tele-health doctors. SEC documents reflect that "Truepill" received a $75 million equity investment in late summer. Ann Lamont was listed as one of the investors of that sum. Further, tele-health firm "Lemon-Aid Health" started a major ad campaign in January reflecting a user-friendly interface to get virtual health appointments and, if needed, pharmaceuticals. Trade journals reflect that Truepill is a significant purveyor of Lemon-Aid's pharmaceutical business.

    What a coup it must be for Ann Lamont's Oak HC/FT partner Dr. Zeke Emmanuel (if you remember, he is the infamous oncologist whose article in The Atlantic professed his desire to die by the age of 75) to have a seat on President-elect Biden's Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board. After all, how difficult is it for Zeke to walk to the basement and whisper in Joe's ear, continually ramping up COVID-19 hysteria and depression? Imagine the potential profit margins when you have assistance from both national and local officials flipping the COVID thermostat up or down as political and financial circumstances might dictate.

    Finally, the Wall Street Journal reported in January that the new Cayman Islands based “Oak HC/FT Partners IV LP” fund received a $61.8 million investment from the Pennsylvania State Employees Retirement System. Despite several irate retirement board members pointing to the troubling, glaring conflicts between states, investors and an objective and honest public policy, an undisclosed executive session of that board allowed this dubious deal to proceed. Given this arrangement, it is now quite easy for a coalition of Pennsylvania, Connecticut and possibly other blue states to un-objectively prolong a regional pandemic for self-interest and for profit.

    As our state accelerates into an economic abyss for which COVID is continually blamed, it is plausible that the governor’s cohorts continue to financially profit from this pandemic. Lamont hired a politically connected communications firm, McDowell Communications Group, to handle the spin. Deafening silence continues from those who should be legislative guardians of the public trust and a comparable blackout exists from the Fourth Estate.

    Meanwhile, polls show Lamont’s approval rating is essentially double what it was from December 2019. Maybe the electorate doesn't care. More likely it doesn’t know about the cronies fattening at the trough.

    Minimally, shouldn't the governor acknowledge all conflicts of interest if and when the state has dealings with companies that have associations with his wife? This is simple transparency, to which every political administration should aspire.

    Lee Elci is the morning host for 94.9 News Now radio, a station that provides "Stimulating Talk" with a conservative bent.

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