FOURTH OBAMA SCANDAL: Did HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius solicit funds for nonprofit group?
Adding to president's pile of woes, Republicans investigate fundraising effort by Sibelius
In the past month, the Obama administration has seen three major scandals arise - and now Republicans hope for a fourth. They're seeking to target Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, questioning her soliciting of funds on behalf of a non-profit group, called Enroll America, from two private entities. Federal law bars officials from soliciting any organization or individual with whom they do business or regulate.
Kathleen Sebelius has reportedly solicited financial donations for Enroll America from H&R Block Inc, the tax preparation company, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a philanthropic entity devoted to public health issues.
Sebelius has reportedly solicited financial donations for Enroll America from H&R Block Inc, the tax preparation company, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a philanthropic entity devoted to public health issues. Neither H&R Block nor the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is regulated by HHS. There is ostensibly nothing improper or illegal about soliciting them, according to a spokesperson.
Enroll America is intended to serve as the private sector flagship for a massive public outreach campaign intended to get millions of uninsured Americans to sign up for subsidized insurance coverage through new online marketplaces, or exchanges, set to begin on October 1.
IN a statement, H&R Block says it has made no commitment to Enroll America. "We received a phone call from the Secretary during which the Secretary discussed supporting Enroll America," the company said in a statement. "While we took her suggestion under consideration, we have made no commitment," it said.
In addition, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation said in a statement that it had "recently approved new funding" for Enroll America, bringing its total contributions to the group to nearly $14 million since 2010.
To this end, Republican U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander says he's looking into a violation of the federal "anti-deficiency" act, which bars agencies from accepting "voluntary" services except when authorized by law.
Other Republicans are expressing caution, saying that a violation of the law is a long shot. "I would be skeptical of the claim that it's illegal, unless someone made a really compelling case. However, the appearance is such that it at least raises questions," Jonathan Adler, a law professor at Case Western University says. Adler says he opposes healthcare reform.
Still other Republicans see an opportunity for a fourth scandal. "Our guys on the Hill think this is the fourth scandal," Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak says. "It fits into that narrative Republicans are building not only about incompetence in the executive branch but also dishonesty.
"This is a good issue for Republicans," Mackowiak added. "We want to maximize it."
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