WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A series of e-mail exchanges between officials at the Department of Health and Human Services shows growing alarm at the amount of projected profit from a government contract for a drug company whose controlling shareholder is a longtime Democratic Party activist.
Ronald Perelman is controlling shareholder of Siga Technologies and a longtime Democratic Party activist and fundraiser. He's also a large contributor to Republicans, but has been a particular friend of the Obama White House.
But internal e-mails obtained exclusively by CNN show a contracting officer assigned to manage price negotiations between HHS and Siga was alarmed at the cost. Siga's return on investment, one e-mail said, was "an overwhelming 180 per cent."
The e-mail went on to say that margin "must be cut in half at a minimum" and later added: "I know you won't find a CO (Contracting Officer) in government who would sign a 3-digit profit percentage."
A few weeks later, the CEO of Siga, Dr. Eric A. Rose, wrote to HHS, saying "it was clear that we were at an impasse in negotiations" and urging government officials to remove the existing contracting officer and replace him "with a more senior official." The assistant secretary for preparedness and response, Nicole Lurie, agreed. In a letter to Rose, she told him she had instructed her officials "to appoint our most senior procurement official as the final authority for this procurement." Shortly thereafter, the contract was signed.