A House special committee was announced Monday to investigate what is being called “foreign meddling in taxpayer-funded research.”
Speaker Jose Oliva said that with “the recent revelations of Chinese meddling in Florida taxpayer-funded research as well as wrongdoing on the part of leadership at the Moffitt Cancer Center,” he was rolling out “a select committee to investigate any further improper or illegal activities involving Florida’s research universities, medical research facilities, and individuals associated with such institutions.”
“The select committee will be chaired by Rules Committee Chairman and Speaker Designate Chris Sprowls. This committee will have broad jurisdiction to investigate, introduce legislation, and make reports to the Speaker and the House for further action,” Oliva added.
Sprowls, a Pinellas Republican, can be expected to take a critical look at Chinese ties. In a tweet earlier this month, he decried “indefensible” actions from the guilty parties.
“To accept vast sums of public money — state and Federal — and then have the CEO and other employees secretly accepting money from China violates the public trust,” he wrote. “We need to take a hard look at what is going on at Florida’s research institutions that receive public money. We cannot allow China or other foreign governments to covertly exploit American research paid for by American taxpayers.”
Monday’s statement updated and moved forward vows from the Speaker’s Office earlier this month that an investigation would move forward, despite Moffitt having moved “swiftly and decisively” in the matter.
Oliva had called for “further investigations” into Moffitt Cancer Center and any other Florida institutions that conduct medical research after the abrupt resignation of Moffitt CEO Alan List and other top executives earlier this month.
List resigned under pressure after an internal investigation found List had violated conflict of interest guidelines through personal involvement with a Chinese initiative that recruits researchers from American and European universities and companies.
The departures didn’t stop there: Moffitt Vice President Thomas Sellers and four researchers also exited.
Other elected officials, including on the federal level, have gone on record with concerns over the ties between high-ranking Moffitt officials and the Chinese communist regime.
Sen. Rick Scott lauded the removal of the officials for an “improper and undisclosed relationship with the Chinese government.”
Material from Florida Politics’ Tampa correspondent Janelle Irwin Taylor was used in this post.