Right to Know Letter to U.S. Department of Justice
This letter from California Right to Know was sent today to Lanny Breuer, Assistant Attorney General of the USDOJ Criminal Division; Laurel Rimon, Chief of the Special Prosecutions Unit of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California; and Vincent Tolino, Director of the Ethics and Integrity staff at the FDA.
Dear Mr. Breuer, Ms. Rimon, and Mr. Tolino:
I am writing on behalf of our client, Yes on 37 for the Right to Know If Your Food Has Been Genetically Engineered (“Yes on 37 Committee”), a California ballot committee advocating for passage of Proposition 37 in the upcoming general election. Proposition 37 would require labeling of certain foods made with genetic engineering.
It has come to the attention of the Yes on 37 Committee, first, that the California political committee formed to oppose Proposition 37, the No On 37 Committee, has paid for and disseminated a direct mail piece stating that the Food and Drug Administration “says a labeling policy like Prop. 37 would be ‘inherently misleading,’” with the name and official seal of FDA appearing under that statement. A copy of that mailing is attached.
Of course, the FDA has never taken a position on Proposition 37; it would be unlawful for the agency to do so, in the general election; and the quoted statement from FDA was made in an unrelated context more than twenty years ago. In these circumstances, it appears that use of the agency’s seal on this mail piece is clearly fraudulent and the misuse of the seal in this way is a violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 506 and 1017 as well as applicable agency regulations.
Second, under California law, the California Secretary of State prepares an official guide for voters, including certain materials on ballot propositions. Those materials include arguments submitted by proponents of each proposition and arguments opposed, and rebuttals to each. These arguments must be submitted by registered California voters, who submit a form certifying that they are the authors of the argument or rebuttal.
The three identified authors of the “Rebuttal to Argument in Favor of Proposition 37” include a Dr. Henry I. Miller, who is identified solely as “Founding Director, Office of Biotechnology of the Food & Drug Administration.” The Rebuttal appears on page 56 of the official Voter Information Guide, a copy of which is attached.
Dr. Miller in fact, does not currently work for the FDA in any capacity. The use of a false official federal title to make it appear that a high-ranking FDA official opposes the ballot proposition would seem to be a blatant violation of 18 U.S.C. §912, making it a federal offense to “assume or pretend to be an office or employee acting under the authority of the United States or any department, agency or officer, thereof, and acts as such, …..”
We urge you to take steps immediately to put a stop to the misuse of the agency’s seal and official authority for these improper political purposes.
If you have any questions or need further information concerning the above, please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you for your time and attention to this important matter.
Joseph E. Sandler
(The above quote is fabricated. FDA does not take a position on Prop 37.)