Potential donors to a nonprofit group committed to promoting the Affordable Care Act are supposedly second-guessing whether they want to associate their money with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' "scandalous" fundraising efforts.
“Would-be givers are ‘gun-shy’ after reports that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius called on private industry executives to contribute to Enroll America, a nonprofit that is encouraging Americans to sign up for health care markets tied to the Affordable Care Act,” the Washington Times reports.
It’s true: HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius earlier this month asked companies in an industry that she has an enormous amount of influence over to donate money to help implement Obamacare.
The Washington Post reports:
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has gone, hat in hand, to health industry officials, asking them to make large financial donations to help with the effort to implement President Obama’s landmark health-care law, two people familiar with the outreach said.
Her unusual fundraising push comes after Congress repeatedly rejected the Obama administration’s requests for additional funds to set up the Affordable Care Act, leaving HHS to implement the president’s signature legislative accomplishment on what officials have described as a shoestring budget.
Over the past three months, Sebelius has made multiple phone calls to health industry executives, community organizations and church groups and asked that they contribute whatever they can to nonprofit groups that are working to enroll uninsured Americans and increase awareness of the law, according to an HHS official and an industry person familiar with the secretary’s activities. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk openly about private discussions.
Considering Sebelius' power and sway over the health care industry, her fundraising efforts have raised a few eyebrows.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) told TheBlaze that the house energy and commerce committee will be looking into the allegations that HHS Secretary is raising funds from companies she also regulates.
"She should not be out asking for contributions from people they regulate and oversee and that she's going to be regulating through this Obamacare process," she said.
Blackburn said many people have made comparisons to the Iran-Contra affair, in which an end-run around Congress was made. "It sounds worse to me," she said of the current allegations.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) also expressed concern that the HHS secretary might be raising funds from people she regulates and passing that on to a private entity in an end-run around Congress, similar to the Iran-Contra affair.
Enroll America "to do what Congress refused to do." Alexander said he and several other senators have asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate the details and provide facts.
Sen. Alexander said it sounds like the secretary is "doing what Congress refused to do" by using private donations and a non-government entity, Enroll America.
"If Congress says no and you go ahead and do it anyway, then that's illegal," he added.
Meanwhile, a few bloggers have voiced their concerns in -- less diplomatic terms.
“I'm sure people who decline her generous invitation to pay up won't suffer and negative consequences,” the Ace of Spades HQ blog notes.
It's not like the Obama administration “used the IRS to target conservatives. Oh, right. And naturally there won't be a little something extra in the regulations for those that pony up,” the site adds.
Still, despite the backlash against Sebelius' behavior, the department stands by her efforts, "noting aspects of the Public Health Service Act allow the secretary to engage with nonprofits to promote the president’s agenda," the Times reports.
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