Real estate developer Albert Dwoskin and his wife, Claire, were activists in the anti-vaccine movement long before a measles epidemic swept the country.
It’s not a secret that their family foundation is the main funder of the Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute, which inaccurately links autism with vaccines. Claire founded the group and Albert sits on its board.
Claire Dwoskin’s biography on the Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute site boasts that she is a volunteer, a one-time board member at the National Vaccine Information Center—a nonprofit that organizes against vaccine restrictions—and a leader in other efforts in anti-vaxx circles.
But if the couple’s association with the anti-vaccine movement troubles members of one of their other favorite causes, it’s not reflected in Federal Election Commission filings.
In April 2019, Albert Dwoskin gave the Democratic Congressional Congressional Committee $24,900 and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s PAC to the Future $5,000. In March, the Democratic National Committee received a total of $50,000.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) also received a check in March for $2,700.
Virginia Democratic Reps. Don Beyer and Gerry Connolly also received contributions from Albert Dwoskin in 2019. Claire Dwoskin has made a single donation to Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) for $2,800.
The Dwoskin family is so closely tied with the DNC, the current chair, Tom Perez, hitched a ride on Albert Dwoskin’s private plane to get to a speech in Texas last year. Dwoskin reported the flight, which was reported by the Washington Free Beacon, as an in-kind contribution of $5,194.74 the same day as Perez’s trip.
A spokesman for the DNC did not address the donation or Perez’s relationship with Dwoskin.
“Of course Tom Perez believes we should listen to doctors and his own kids are vaccinated,” Brandon Gassaway, a spokesman for the DNC, said.
The DCCC did not respond to a request for comment.
Aaron Fritschner, a spokesman for Beyer, said, “The decision to accept a donation does not in this case or in general reflect total agreement with the donor’s beliefs, and Rep. Beyer’s support for vaccinations has been unwavering.”
The Dwoskins’ roots with the Democratic Party go back decades. Their home in Northern Virginia has been the staging area for candidates, committees, and even at least one president. They were loyal contributors to both Hillary and Bill Clinton. Albert Dwoskin was appointed twice as the director of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation by then-President Clinton.
Their public anti-vaccine activism appears to have started in the last decade. In 2013, Claire Dwoskin founded the Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute, a nonprofit that aims to “conduct research on a range of issues from the toxic potential of various vaccine ingredients to the expression of human diseases.” It is largely funded by The Dwoskin Family Foundation, according to a comparison of the two groups’ Internal Revenue Service forms from 2014 to 2016. In 2017, the Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute reported gross receipts of $524,100.
Kellie Boyle, a spokeswoman for the family, pushed back on the idea that the Dwoskins are anti-vaccine.
“The Dwoskins have always been pro-vaccine safety, actually, advocating for standard placebo-control testing of individual vaccines (as all other drugs are subject to) and testing of multiple vaccines given simultaneously (as they are frequently administered up to eight at a time), for instance,” she wrote in an email.
After the publication of this story, Albert Dwoskin issued a statement to The Daily Beast distancing himself from the anti-vaccine movement, noting that his family foundation had ceased to fund CMSRI resulting in it's closure after he and his wife began divorce proceedings last year.
“The CMSRI, founded by my estranged wife, has been closed. I regret my participation in the CMSRI’s work and disagree with her views on the dangers of vaccination,” he added. “My foundation no longer supports work on this issue.”
Medical professionals have debunked both the placebo-testing and the schedule of vaccine arguments made by vaccine skeptics.
“The bottom line is that vaccines are extensively and carefully tested for safety, and that vaccine safety is shown by many, many studies from a variety of sources, reinforcing each other and all pointing to the same result—serious problems from vaccines are possible, but extremely rare,” wrote Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, a law professor at the University of California Hastings College of Law who has written extensively on the vaccine issue, in a detailed post on Skeptical Raptor last year. “And those small, rare risks are far outweighed by the benefits vaccines provide by protecting us against much larger risks.”
As of June 13, 1,044 cases of measles have been confirmed in 28 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control—a record number since the disease was eradicated in the U.S. in 2000. In a conference call with reporters last month, officials from the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services reiterated that vaccines are safe and attributed the cause of the outbreaks, particularly in New York state, to misinformation circulating in the community.
“We should expect to see additional cases associated with this outbreak this year,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, CDC vaccine director, warned. “The public health community, the community organizers are all working together to correct misinformation and get folks vaccinated.”