GOP Senators Want Answers on Sebelius' Obamacare Fundraising

Saturday, 01 Jun 2013 11:24 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald, Melanie Batley and Todd Beamon

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Republican senators are demanding answers about Health And Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' private fundraising efforts to augment finances for Obamacare, saying her actions were legally and ethically wrong.

GOP Sens. Rob Portman and Orrin Hatch, in exclusive interviews with Newsmax, both agree that Sebelius' activities were ethically suspect and likely illegal.


Since March, Sebelius has solicited donations on behalf of Enroll America, which is made up of Obama campaign loyalists seeking to boost insurance exchange enrollments, from H&R Block and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which supports anti-obesity and other health outreach campaigns. H&R Block hasn't donated, but the Foundation donated a total of H&R Block has yet to respond to the appeal, but the foundation has donated a total of $14 million.

Republicans complain the fundraising drive violates the federal "anti-deficiency" act, which prohibits government agencies from accepting voluntary services or donations.
However, HHS officials say a section of the Public Service Act allows its secretary to seek donations to support health programs.

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Hatch, of Utah, who is the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, along with two other senior GOP senators, on Thursday sent a letter to HHS Inspector Gen. Daniel R. Levinson, seeking an investigation of her activities, which ethics specialists have termed as being anywhere from a stretch legally to a shakedown of cash from companies the HHS oversees.

“These activities call into question whether appropriations and ethics laws are being followed,” said the letter, which The Washington Times reports was also signed by Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee; and Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican and the ranking member of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.
Hatch told Newsmax on Friday that Sebelius’ actions were “ethically suspect” and maybe even illegal.

“If the secretary of any part of our government can call individual companies that do business with that part of our government and ask for money, that’s a tremendous amount of pressure they’ve put on in an inappropriate way,” the Utah Republican said.

“Those companies or foundations may feel like: ‘Well, we’ve got to give, even though we find it outrageous, or we’ll suffer the consequences — or they’ll give us a rough time in the future.’

“That’s why we shouldn’t do things this way,” Hatch said. “It may be a total violation of laws that are extremely important here.”

Republican Sen. Rob Portman also said that if it's proven Sebelius is raising money privately, she's breaking the law.

Related: Portman Says Prosecutor Needed for IRS Probe

The Ohio Republican told Newsmax TV's John Bachman that the Constitution stipulates that Congress has the sole authority to determine the level of appropriations for federal programs. He argued any efforts by Sebelius to raise additional funds for Obamacare would violate one of the fundamental tenets of the Constitution.

"I am very concerned about this HHS issue which is also one we need to get to the bottom of because, in essence, it is the secretary of Health and Human Services refusing to accept the constitutional role of Congress which is the power of the purse, meaning that the federal agencies are not supposed to spend money that Congress does not appropriate," he said.

"That's the way our Founding Fathers set it up and they did it on purpose. They wanted the people's house — the House of Representatives — and the Senate to be able to approve spending. So Congress chose not to allow HHS to spend money on some of the efforts related to Obamacare and she, instead, has said, okay, well, I'm going to do it privately."

Portman said if Sebelius is raising private funds for a governmental activity, and circumventing Congress to source the additional funds, she would also be violating the "anti-deficiency law."

Urgent: Is Obama Telling the Truth on IRS, Benghazi Scandals?

"The anti-deficiency law was put in place to avoid just this sort of thing. I am concerned about it. It hasn't gotten as much notice maybe because these other things are swirling around, the AP and Fox News issues and the Benghazi issue and the IRS issue, but it is one that we do need to get to the bottom of and we could ensure that we're not seeing the HHS, really, an effort to circumvent the will of the Congress," he said.

Newsmax's John Bachman also contributed to this report.

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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