Obamacare: Darrell Issa requests documents from HHS related to illegal lobbying with taxpayer money
With the probability that John Boehner put the brakes on Darrell Issa’s Fast and Furious investigation, it appears as if Darrell Issa has moved on to the next looming scandal. This one involves the possibility of illegal Obamacare lobbying with the use of taxpayer money.
It has been reported that the Department of Health and Human Services received grant money to set up a couple of agencies to implement portions of the Obamacare law but turned around and used a portion of that taxpayer money for lobbying instead. A practice that Darrell Issa believes is illegal. Taxpayer money funding lobbyists to fight for more taxpayer money? It sure doesn’t sound like it is on the level, and yesterday Darrell Issa sent a letter to Kathleen Sebelius asking for documents related to the burgeoning scandal.
In the letter, obtained by The Daily Caller, Issa wrote that there are multiple statutes — including language in the fiscal year 2012 appropriations bill, 18 U.S.C. Section 1913 (aka the “Anti-Lobbying Act,” in effect since 1919), the 1989 Byrd Amendment, and HHS’ own regulations — prohibiting taxpayer money from going toward lobbying, at any level of government, as well as examples of grantees using federal funds to lobby local officials.
When Kathleen Sebelius was first asked about this when she testified in front of a Congressional Subcommittee she admitted that it was happening, and she admitted that she knew it was happening, but she defended it by stating that because it was happening at a local–and not a federal–level that the practice was legal.
This excuse does not hold water, Title 18 of the U.S. Code, Section 1913:
“No part of the money appropriated by any enactment of Congress shall, in the absence of express authorization by Congress, be used directly or indirectly to pay for any personal service, advertisement, telegram, telephone, letter, printed or written matter, or other device, intended or designed to influence in any manner a Member of Congress, a jurisdiction, or an official of any government, to favor, adopt, or oppose, by vote or otherwise, any legislation, law, ratification, policy or appropriation.”
Here is part of the letter Darrell Issa sent to Kathleen Sebelius, including the violations it appears as if her department has committed:
Despite these apparently clear prohibitions against using federal funds for lobbying at the federal, state, or local government levels, and despite HHS’ assurances grants were awarded according to Anti-Lobbying prohibitions and the agency’s own AR-12 guidelines, the CDC appears to have violated this long-standing provision in issuing Patient Protection and Affordable Act’s “Prevention and Public Health Fund” grants. For instance:
- The County of St. Louis, Missouri sought, and received, a $7.5 million dollar grant to in part identify “a County Council member willing to introduce amendments … “
- The Executive Office of the Governor of Delaware sought, and received, a $1,022,792 dollar grant to in part “seek sponsorship of (a) bill …”
- The Iowa Department of Public Health sought, and received, a $600,256 grant to in part “support passage” and lobby two legislative representatives “to sponsor (a) bill in upcoming session”
- The Colorado Department of Public Health sought, and received, a $793,946 grant to in part “secure bill sponsors for legislation
Here is how Darrell Issa ended his letter to Kathleen Sebelius:
As Secretary of HHS, the CDC follows your guidance regarding anti-lobbying,” Issa wrote. “As such, I am concerned with conflicting messages regarding HHS’s position on lobbying with federal funds that you have conveyed in your most recent testimonies on Capitol Hill
On the surface it certainly appears as if taxpayer money was used for illegal lobbying, and an investigation seems justified. Hopefully Darrell Issa will get to the bottom of this before John Boehner puts an end to this investigation as well.