March 2021 Squeal Award: Suppressing Information Might Work in Communist China, But We Should Not Stand for It In America.

One year has passed since the outbreak of a novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China put the world into an unprecedented global lockdown.

Because of the ingenuity and tireless work of our scientists and medical professionals, vaccines have been developed in record time and will hopefully soon bring an end to the pandemic.

But the origins of COVID still remain a mystery…and that isn’t entirely an accident.  

The virus emerged in one of the world’s most closed societies ruled by a ruthless authoritarian regime with no tolerance for truth or transparency. The Communist Party of China refuses to fully cooperate with efforts to learn how a virus found in bats made the cross-species jump to humans.

Finding the source isn’t about assigning blame, it is about understanding the cause and preventing a similar occurrence from happening again.

What is needed to solve these mysteries are facts. So let’s walk through some of those. 

COVID appeared in the vicinity of the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), a laboratory where research is conducted on bat coronaviruses. Researchers at this state-run lab reportedly became sick with COVID-like symptoms in the fall of 2019, just months prior to the first case of the new pathogen being publicly identified. After the outbreak began, Chinese officials ordered the destruction of coronavirus samples.

***Something to note: years earlier, U.S. officials who visited WIV sent several warnings back to the State Department that studies were being conducted on dangerous coronaviruses from bats that “can be transmitted to humans” in a lab with “serious” safety problems.

Now, what’s even more troubling? Some of that research at WIV was being subsidized by U.S. taxpayers, including a study published less than two years prior to the pandemic that found “the first serological evidence of likely human infection” by coronaviruses from bats. 

Folks, maybe we can’t force China to be more forthcoming about what was happening at WIV, but we can at least expect our own government to be open and transparent, right? Think again. 

For more than three decades, federal law has required the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to publicly disclose every project being supported with federal funds—like these coronaviruses studies.

Yet, this law has been ignored – frankly broken – by HHS despite being renewed annually by Congress.

That’s why I am awarding my March 2021 Squeal Award to HHS for refusing to be transparent about how Iowans’ tax dollars are being spent—as required by law. 

It’s also why I am asking the HHS Office of Inspector General to investigate the agency’s failure to comply with the law and issue recommendations to shine a light on how your tax dollars are being spent so we can hold our government accountable.

This is not optional. The U.S. Government—unlike China’s—is not above the law.

We need a little sunshine on the situation; because as the saying goes, “sunshine is the best disinfectant.” A transparent government that is accountable to the people is a fundamental principle of our democracy, and what makes government “of the people” different than Communist China’s centralized control. It’s also the guiding light of Sunshine Week, which we celebrate this week.

Do you have an example of government waste or inefficiencies that I should take a look at? Send me an email by clicking here.

Thank you!