Constella Group

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Constella Group, LLC describes itself as "a leading provider of professional health services worldwide with more than 1,200 employees in 43 countries." [1] One of its units helps pharmaceutical and biotechnology clients "build relationships with regulatory authorities." Its skills include "policy development,...strategic consulting,...regulatory affairs, and clinical trials management." [2]

Conflicts of Interest

In April 2007, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the Constella Group, "hired by the federal government four years ago to update its list of carcinogens moved quickly to add a virus to the list while two of its clients," Merck and GlaxoSmithKline, "were developing vaccines to combat that same virus." [3]

Sidney Wolfe, of the national consumer watchdog group Public Citizen, said tougher conflict-of-interest rules are needed for federal contractors in the health arena. "Otherwise the decision-making is tainted. And even worse than being tainted, it could be the wrong decision - which could have an adverse health impact," said Wolfe, a physician who heads the watchdog's Health Research Group. "There are plenty of contractors out there that don't have financial conflicts of interest." But Don Holzworth, Constella's founder and chief executive officer, denied in a letter to the Journal Sentinel that there is even a hint of a conflict. " The work that we did on behalf of Merck and GlaxoSmithKline, and any other pharmaceutical or biotechnology clients, does not conflict with any work that we have previously done, or are currently doing, on behalf of our government contracts," he wrote. [4]

Political Connections

Tommy Thompson

After taking on Tommy Thompson as the Chairman of its influential Advisory Board, Constella made a $180,000 payment to Thompson's firm, Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, for unspecified lobbying services. The company's CEO Holtzworth told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that, "He can make introductions for us." Thompson, as a member of President Bush's cabinet, oversaw many of the agencies that Constella works for today. "The majority of our business is through relationships with public agencies, both in the U.S. and foreign governments." [5]

At the same time, Constella hired Thompson's longtime friend, Stewart Simonson, as a Vice President for "emergency health preparedness" - a field in which Constella has very little experience. (See below.) [6] [7]

Stewart Simonson

On September 26, 2006, the company announced in a news release that it had named "named Stewart Simonson, former U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) assistant secretary for public health emergency preparedness, as its vice president for global public health preparedness.

"In this capacity, Simonson will lead Constella’s internal preparedness programs and launch initiatives to broaden the company’s extensive preparedness expertise and its support of both public and private sector constituents. He will also be actively involved in public health preparedness outreach through speaking engagements, white papers, and various other media.

"As assistant secretary, Simonson reported directly to HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt, and previously served under former Secretary Tommy G. Thompson who chairs Constella’s Advisory Board. He was the secretary’s principal advisor on bioterrorism and other public health emergency matters and coordinated public health preparedness activities of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health. Simonson also represented HHS in negotiations with foreign governments and international agencies on public health preparedness matters. He was responsible for implementing the $5.6 billion Project BioShield Act of 2004 and was instrumental in national preparedness planning for Pandemic Avian Influenza." [8]

"Like Michael Brown at FEMA, Simonson is a lawyer who was close to a political benefactor. Simonson graduated from the University of Wisconsin law school in 1994 and served as legal counsel to Tommy Thompson while he was governor of Wisconsin from 1995 to 1999. Simonson then followed Thompson to Washington when the governor was appointed as head of HHS. Simonson’s bio at HHS states that 'from 2001-2003, he was the HHS Deputy General Counsel and provided legal advice and counsel to the Secretary on public health preparedness matters. Prior to joining HHS, Simonson served as corporate secretary and counsel for the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (AMTRAK).'" [9]

Federal Contracts

Department of Defense

Constella contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense on various unspecified data analysis and data gathering services. DoD is a key source of Constella's funding. [10] [11]

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

According to its history, on November 5, 2005, the company announced it had received a 10-year, $42.3 million contract with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to conduct a variety of clinical research studies in environmental health. [12]

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

On Oct. 25, 2005,the company announced that it has expanded its work into the area of substance abuse prevention with the award of a $25 million 5 year contract with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Advisory Board

Tommy Thompson

In a news release on May 9, 2006, Constella Group annouonced that it had "convened an advisory board to provide strategic advice and to help the company identify new opportunities, partners and thought leadership for expanding its portfolio of programs and services" to be chaire by former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson. Thompson is now a partner with the Washington, D.C. law firm Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld. [13] [14]

Carol Browner

In the same news release, the company announced that also serving on the advisory board would be Carol Browner, a founding principal of the Albright Group, a global advisory firm. Browner served as head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a member of President Clinton’s cabinet for eight years. [15]

Kenneth Olden

In the same news release, the company announced that also serving would be Kenneth Olden, PhD, ScD, LHD, most recent past director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). [16]

Contact Information

Corporate headquarters
2605 Meridian Parkway
Durham, NC 27713
Phone: 919.544.8500
Fax: 919.544.7507
Website: www.constellagroup.com

Washington, D.C. global development arm
Constella Futures
Suite 200
One Thomas Circle, NW
Washington, DC 20005
Phone: 202.775.9680
Fax: 202.775.9694/9698/9699
email: info AT futuresgroup.com

SourceWatch Resources

References

  1. Constella Group, "About Us", accessed May 2007.
  2. Constella Group, "About Us", accessed May 2007.
  3. "Report: Research company hired by feds denies conflict on virus", Associated Press, April 30, 2007.
  4. "Report: Research company hired by feds denies conflict on virus", Associated Press, April 30, 2007.
  5. Susanne Rust and Cary Spivak, "Drug-testing industry turns to private sector", Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 1, 2007.
  6. "Constella Group: Client Summary, 2006" Opensecrets.org, accessed May 2007.
  7. Wieland, "Simonson “Somehow” Lands a Job", Transparent Grid, October 2, 2006.
  8. Constella Group, "Constella Group Appoints Former Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary as Vice President for Global Public Health Preparedness", Media Release, September 26, 2006.
  9. Wieland, "Crony in Charge of Pandemic Response", Transparent Grid, October 5, 2005.
  10. Contract Transaction #5743569 (FY 2000-2006)", Fed.spending.org, accessed May 2007.
  11. Contracts to Contractor(s) "constella" (FY 2005)", Fed.spending.org, accessed May 2007.
  12. Constella Group, "History", accessed May 2007.
  13. Constella Group, "Constella Group Convenes Advisory Board Led by Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson", Media Release, May 9, 2006.
  14. Tommy Thompson Joins Advisory Board for Constella Group", WRAL.com, May 10, 2006.
  15. Constella Group, "Constella Group Convenes Advisory Board Led by Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson", Media Release, May 9, 2006.
  16. Constella Group, "Constella Group Convenes Advisory Board Led by Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson", Media Release, May 9, 2006.

External links