Some Obamacare contractors have demonstrated political connections to the Obama administration, critics say, pointing to firms whose executives worked in the White House, for the campaign or had previous associations.
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 19: U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions Alex Wong/Getty Images
“The implementation of the president’s health law has been a disaster on every front,” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) told TheBlaze. “Not only are millions of Americans losing their coverage and many more are getting notices of unaffordable premium increases, now we’re learning that some favored companies are being awarded lucrative contracts without the proper review process.”
Two contractors that worked on HealthCare.gov, the online marketplace for acquiring government-approved insurance plans, were Teal Media and Development Seed, whose executives have ties with the Obama administration and campaigns. Meanwhile, much media attention has already been paid to Canadian-based CGI Federal, the chief company behind the HealthCare.gov website, where one top executive is a friend of the Obamas and contributor to the campaign.
Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, has written letters to the Department of Health and Human Services about a Chicago-based organization, Treatment Alternatives for Secure Communities (TASC-IL), which received a single-bid contract to sign Illinois inmates up for health insurance plans under Obamacare.
“A community outreach organization from the president’s hometown got a contract to promote the health law in prisons,” Sessions added. “This is in addition to the navigators who were supposed to handle sign-ups. As Congress continues to investigate the law’s flawed rollout, other similar abuses will doubtless emerge.”
Obama, during his first year in the U.S. Senate, accepted the TASC 2005 Leadership Award. “The TASC Leadership Award is presented to leaders whose outstanding work brings innovative services to our communities. TASC recognized Senator Obama as an advocate for opportunities and fairness for the citizens of Illinois,” the TASC-IL website says.
TheBlaze made repeated attempts to reach TASC-IL through phone and e-mail messages, but TASC did not respond.
The Department of Health and Human Services did not respond to Session's inquiries. Likewise, the HHS public affairs office did not respond to numerous phone messages and email messages from TheBlaze since Friday.
Most of the contracts being eyed regard the HealthCare.gov website.
While the company taking the lead on the website, CGI Federal, has ties with the Obamas, the company also provided plenty of financial backing to Republicans.
Sessions biggest gripe is the company's record.
“The main website developer, for example, is a Canadian company that reportedly built a database in that country which came in at 1,000 times more expensive than projected,” Sessions told TheBlaze.
Fox News reported Toni Townes-Whitley, a senior vice president of CGI Federal, is a Princeton classmate of first lady Michelle Obama and contributed $500 in 2011 and 2012 to Obama's reelection campaign and another $1,000 to the Obama Victory Fund. Further, George Schindler, president for U.S. and Canada for CGI Federal's parent company CGI Group, donated to Obama's reelection campaign after his company won the ObamaCare contract.
That said, the CGI Group political action committee gave significantly more to Republicans than Democrats in the 2012 election cycle. The PAC spent $11,250 to attempt to get Republican Mitt Romney elected president, and spent $147,700 on the Republican Governors Association. That's compared to $35,000 for the Democratic Governor's Association, according to campaign data from the Center for Responsive Politics.
In a statement to TheBlaze, CGI said the contract was legitimately attained through a competitive bid process.
“The Healthcare.gov contract was a competitively bid task order under an Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract that CGI won in September 2011,” a CGI spokesperson told TheBlaze. “CMS used a best value evaluation system to determine the winning contractor.”
Judicial Watch, a conservative government watchdog group is using the Freedom of Information Act to find more information about companies such as Teal Media and Development Seed.
HealthCare.gov visual designer is the Detroit area-based Teal Media, whose founder Jessica Teal was the design manager for the Obama 2008 campaign. Teal's other clients include Planned Parenthood, the AFL-CIO, Mayor's Against Illegal Guns and Emily's List.
Teal Media did not respond to phone calls or e-mails from TheBlaze.
The company website says, “Jessica founded Teal Media following her successful stint as Design Manager for the 2008 Obama Presidential campaign. Prior to the campaign, Jessica had worked as lead designer at Blue State Digital, the Democratic National Committee and the U.S. House of Representatives.”
Jessica Teal's LinkedIn page says, “As Design Manager for the Obama presidential campaign, oversaw the visual design and development of web and print materials for the campaign. This included the official campaign website and microsites, web/email-based fundraising campaigns, state and constituency literature, large-scale signage and event materials, and special projects.”
Judicial Watch posted information on its website about these firms, with a headline, “Obama Pals Crafted Disastrous Fed Health Exchange Website.”
“In our experience contracts of this nature are not awarded by accident,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton told TheBlaze.
While Fitton didn't blame the companies for the website's troubles, Fitton believes potential cronyism can't help matters.
“The scope of this disruption warrants a criminal investigation,” Fitton said. “If this occurred in the private sector every executive would be hauled before a government agency. Were contracts awarded for reasons other than merit? This entire problem screams for more scrutiny.”
The Obamacare website was coded by the Washington, D.C.-based Development Seed a “visualization and mapping team.” Development Seed's general manager David Cole was the deputy director of new media in the Obama White House, and was the data lead for the Obama campaign in Iowa in 2008.
The company did not respond to phone calls and emails from TheBlaze.
In the months leading to the website launch, Cole expressed his anticipation for HealthCare.gov.
“For us, this project marks the culmination of several months of strategy and development building a beautiful, fast, and completely CMS-free new website, as well as battle-testing our approach to low-cost, low-maintenance web development, that has radically disruptive potential for traditional content management web projects,” Cole said in a June 25 blog entry on the company's websites.
In October, a separate company blog entry from Development Seed staffer Eric Gundersen said the portion of the website the company worked on is working OK.
“The main HealthCare.gov landing page and the thousands of subpages that educate the public on Affordable Care Act insurance are powered by Jekyll,” a blog entry on the company website said. “This portion of the website has experienced 100% uptime and has functioned perfectly since we launched it in June.”