Thorner: Don’t forget about HHS scandal

June 19, 2013


With all the other scandals currently in the cross fire capturing Washington’s attention — out of 15 Cabinet Departments there are 7 with on-going scandals — the one that is being shortchanged by the media and even forgotten by the American people is HHS Kathleen Sebelius’ solicitation of donations from entities over which she holds enormous power.

The question is whether Kathleen Sebelius has been arm-twisting insurance companies and other health-related industries for donations to support and pay for a campaign to push Obamacare? The campaign is headed by Enroll America, a non-for-profit coalition of groups that is focused on implementing, raising awareness and promoting the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka, Obamacare.

Congress, having repeatedly rejected the Obama administration’s requests for additional funds to set up the Affordable Care Act, has left HHS with what officials have described as a shoestring budget to implement the president’s signature legislative accomplishment. It now appears that Sebelius went about finding other ways to raise money through private-sector means. Because the agencies Sebelius has reportedly strong-armed will be under her direction and administration as Obamacare is installed by 2014, there is a perceived conflict of interest.

According to Office of Government Ethics rules:

Federal employees cannot solicit money from a source that does business or seeks to do business with the employee’s agency, conducts activities regulated by the employee’s agency, has interests that may be substantially affected by performance or nonperformance of the employee’s official duties, or is an organization a majority of whose members are described by the preceding criteria.

Many current and former Robert Wood Johnson Foundation board members were previously Johnson & Johnson executives or work in the healthcare industry.

After admitting to contacting a total of four other entities besides Johnson and Johnson to promote Enroll America, Sibelius is now denying that she solicited funds directly from Johnson & Johnson or other companies regulated by HHS.  Sound familiar?  Nevertheless, Sibelius is claiming that such fundraising would have been allowed and is even legal under the Public Health Service Act.

Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) characterized Kathleen Sebelius’ solicitation as “the Sebelius shakedown” and demanded to know “what is she promising those businesses that she talks to and what is she threatening them with.”

Barrasso also accused Sebelius of devising a plan to “cover over and cover up the train wreck that is happening with the President’s healthcare law” by “shaking down companies, executives throughout the country.”

This is not the first time Kathleen Sibelius has come under scrutiny for alleged ethics conduct.  In 2012 the Office of Special Counsel concluded that Sebelius had violated the Hatch Act when she gave a speech supporting President Obama’s reelection at an official event.  The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activity in their official capacity.

Recently Sibelius was at the center of attention in the news when a federal judge told her to add a 10-year girl dying from cystic fibrosis to the adult lung transplant list.

With the implementation of Obamacare the American people can expect more life and death situations where treatment will be denied because of age, especially among the elderly and the very young.  As such the solicitation of funds by Sebelius becomes even more egregious as the money being requested was targeted to promote Obamacare to the America people, not particularly out of compassion, but to convince as many people as possible to sign up for Obamacare to prevent a train wreck of Obama’s singular first-term achievement.

Given the indifferent of a mainstream media that protects Democrats and wants Obamacare to succeed, there is a good chance Kathleen Sibelius will be given a free pass.

I lack confidence in my own Republican Party to do diligence in holding Kathleen Sebelius accountable for her conduct, if not illegal, it was unethical, and it should be treated as such.


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