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Top Texas Health Official Resigns Amid Questions About Iraq Connection

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The inspector general for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission submitted his letter of resignation to Governor Greg Abbott Thursday, following questions from Texas Monthly about his consulting work related to the Iraqi government.

Stuart Bowen, who was tasked with overseeing $40 billion in health and welfare spending in Texas, was appointed to the post by Governor Abbott in 2015 after he had been the U.S. inspector general for the reconstruction of Iraq. Texas Monthly started inquiring about Bowen's remaining ties to the country after discovering that his name popped up quite a bit in a Washington, D.C. lobbying and law firm's multiple letters to the Trump Administration, asking the president to remove Iraq from the travel ban. Which Trump did.

Texas Monthly's R.G. Ratcliffe found that Bowen was contracted at $300 an hour with the Washington firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck — which is registered as a foreign agent for the Iraqi government — to consult about anti-corruption efforts in the country's financial services sector. In the firm's lobbying letters to the Trump Administration, the firm identified Bowen as a "senior adviser to our firm" and urged Trump officials to set up meetings with a senior Iraqi aide to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

In one letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis, the Brownstein firm wrote: “Stuart Bowen the former Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction under President Bush and has worked with you in the past, is a senior advisor to our firm.” Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general, at one time commanded troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When Trump issued his second executive order days later that temporarily barred travel from several Muslim-majority Middle Eastern countries, Iraq was no longer on the list.

Ratcliffe notes how odd it is that, for a guy tasked with overseeing billions of dollars in health spending, tasked with rooting out any fraud within the Health and Human Services Commission, he for some reason was never required to disclose this interesting relationship with a firm lobbying for Iraq.

In a statement to TM, Bowen denied that his work for the firm breached any code of ethics and denied having anything to do with removing Iraq from the travel ban. “I have never worked for Iraq and was not involved in any law firm activities regarding the travel ban issue," he said.

The governor's office released the following statement to the magazine: “This was a serious and unacceptable lapse in judgment by Mr. Bowen. The day the governor was made aware, he took immediate action and asked Mr. Bowen to resign. The governor is confident the next Inspector General will continue the good work the office has been doing.”

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