By George Colli – July 28, 2023
Gov. Ned Lamont only learned of his wife’s dealings with the Saudi Royal Family’s venture capital arm last week, according to Daily Ructions.
G. Colli Investigates exposed the partnership between Mrs. Lamont’s OAK HC/FT and Sanabil Investments on The Connecticut Capitalist and social media on July 20 and with an article published yesterday. Then, after 8 days of silence from the Lamont administration and the Connecticut television and newspaper media, Daily Ructions’ Kevin Rennie posted an article stating the spokesman for the Lamont administration said “The Governor became aware of Sanabil’s investment in Oak HC/FT last week. Annie Lamont is one of the most respected venture capitalists in the country. Oak HC/FT makes independent investment decisions. The Governor is not involved in the business, including in what investments to accept or make.”
Are we really to believe the First Lady of CT never told her husband the company she founded partnered and received funds from the Saudi Royal family? This happened without his knowledge? Keep in mind, this is just a few months after the Lamont’s spent tens of millions of dollars of their personal fortune in a campaign to smear his opponent for consulting on a Saudi green energy project.
Are we to believe he did not know until last week? How did he find out? What was that dinner table conversation like?
Or is the Governor’s office giving a flippant answer because it feels he wont be asked a second time?
The Lamont administration has a history of appearing to co-mingle Mr. Lamont’s public work with his wife’s private investments. And then denying it.
Look no further than the awarding of state Covid testing contracts to SEMA4, a formerly Connecticut-based medical technology company.
On August 1 2019, Governor Lamont and a team of state lawmakers and agency heads, with the state’s media press pool in tow, toured the newly constructed SEMA4 lab in Stamford. On the same day, Oak HC/FT announced an $800 million dollar fund. By the end of the month, some of that money was going into a $120 million Series B funding round for SEMA4. An investment group that included BlackRock and a Chinese Investment bank.
A few months later, at the end of February 2020, Lamont announced his commissioner of Administrative Services Josh Geballe would take over a second role as Lamont’s COO. Prior to entering public service under the Lamont Administration, Geballe was CEO of Core Infomatics. The technology company received millions in investment funding from Mrs. Lamont’s Oak HC/FT and later also partnered with SEMA4.
Less than two weeks after Geballe was installed as COO, Gov. Lamont declared an emergency declaration because of the rapidly developing COVID pandemic. In his speech announcing the declaration, Lamont started the press conference saying that he needed to do this so he could get more local rapid testing. According to former Department of Public Health Commissioner Renee Coleman-Mitchell, Geballe took over as head of pandemic preparedness and policy.
By the end of March 2020, and in less than 10 days, Geballe and the CT DPH gave SEMA4 all licenses and approvals to conduct rapid COVID testing.
In the first week of April 2020, Lamont announced at a press conference that a deal was reached with SEMA4 and it was already conducting thousands of tests per week. It was also declared in a SEMA4 press release with Geballe quoted in it.
This is when the story from the Lamont administration began to change. On April 27, almost a month after the deal was announced, Josh Geballe put out an RFP for Covid testing contracts. ON May 3, 2020, Geballe handed the RFP process over to the Comptroller office. On May 20th, a contract was signed.
Comptroller Kevin Lembo told CT Mirror in November 2021 that he was first brought into the conversation in May and was never told SEMA4 had any connections to the state’s first family.
The April 6, 2020 announcement of a deal with SEMA4 appears to have violated the ethics agreement the Lamont’s signed to avoid any conflicts of interest with Mrs. Lamont and her work with Oak HC/FT.
In the years since, despite the video and print evidence of the contrary from early April 2020, Governor Lamont, Geballe and Mrs. Lamont have denied any involvement in the selection of SEMA4 to do Covid testing saying it was all done through the Comptrollers office.
How is this possible if the Comptroller was not brought into the discussion until May 2020?
In December 2021, Gov. Lamont was asked by News 12’s John Craven if he or his wife had any influence on the money and contracts going to companies his wife is invested in, “No. Zero. None, Absolutely. We’ve got to show without a shadow of a doubt this is an administration with integrity. The very first people I met with when I became Governor was the Board of Ethics. Look, you’re not used to having a business guy as Governor. You’re certainly not used to having a business guy whose wife is in business as well. We want to be very clear and put a list of every single investment we made and made sure all hands were off. Thankfully they said, “you’ve done the right thing every day Governor.”
Well, that sounds all well and good. If it were true. This is what the Governor’s counsel told the State Ethics Office when the SEMA4 deal contract through the Comptroller was signed on May 20, 2020 and the response from the State Ethics.
The Governor’s lawyer told the State Ethics office that it had “just come to their attention that the State Comptroller awarded a contract to SEMA4.” It went on to say, “I bring this up to you because OAK HC/FT is an investor in SEMA4,” and “The Governor and First Lady were not involved in the State Comptrollers contracting process.” It went on to say they Governor and First Lady wish to donate any benefit that she may derive. ”
The State Ethics office responded by saying “..based on the facts presented and the recusal steps taken, the Governor and First Lady are under no legal obligation to donate the financial benefits…”.
“…BASED ON THE FACTS PRESENTED”.
What if the facts were not presented? What if they were skewed to omit the two months of work by the Lamont office to get SEMA4 off the ground and testing for at least 6 weeks before the Comptroller contract?
As you can see, no where in the Ethics response were the words, “you’ve done everything right every day, Governor”.
A month later, OAK HC/FT invested again in SEMA4. The Governor was already mandating weekly testing for everyone from nursing home residents to students to state employees to prisoners. The mandatory testing went on for over two years.
In June 2021, SEMA4 went public on the New York Stock Exchange. It is known OAK HC/FT was holding onto $66 Million in stock options. Its unknown if any cash options were taken out. It’s also unknown if OAK HC/FT sold the stock before it dropped more than 90% of its value.
Why does the SEMA4 story matter to this latest story involving the allegedly secret deal with the Saudis? It matters because we are hearing the same type of response from the administration, and so far, almost all of the state’s news organizations.
When Governor Lamont tells us he only found out about the Saudi deal last week, are we expected to believe him? His history tells us no.
History also tells us not to hold our breath for any transparency, truth or accountability this time around.
Make a one-time gift to G. COLLI INVESTIGATES
Make a monthly gift to THE CONNECTICUT CAPITALIST
Make a yearly gift to THE CONNECTICUT CAPITALIST
Choose an amount
Or enter a custom amount
Your contribution will go to keeping independent watchdog journalism independent and is greatly appreciated.
Your contribution will go to keeping independent watchdog journalism independent and is appreciated.
Your contribution will go to keeping independent watchdog journalism independent and is appreciated.GIFTGIFTGIFT