Three top Senate Republicans on Thursday called for an independent probe into whether Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius broke the law in soliciting donations from private companies to promote Obamacare.
“These activities call into question whether appropriations and ethics laws are being followed,” the senators wrote in a letter to HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson.
The letter, disclosed by Fox News, was signed by GOP Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee; Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee; and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the ranking member of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.
“We believe a systematic, independent investigation of the matter is necessary to confirm the facts in the case, as well as to detail to what extent any laws, regulations, or internal guidance were not adhered to,” they wrote.
At issue is whether Sebelius broke any laws or breached governmental ethics rules when she solicited insurance companies and other groups for donations to Enroll America, the nonprofit group charged with selling Obamacare to the public.
Enroll America, founded in September 2011, is run by President Barack Obama’s former campaign backers.
Sebelius began approaching companies via telephone starting around March 23. She also called companies in other industries, as well as healthcare providers, patient-advocacy groups, churches, and other charitable organizations.
Federal law bars officials from soliciting organizations or individuals with whom they do business or regulate, though some entities queried by Sebelius — including H&R Block Inc. and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation — are not regulated by HHS.
HHS argues the practice was legal, since the Public Health Services Act allows a secretary to seek funds for nonprofits operating in public health.
The senators’ letter follows calls from other Capitol Hill Republicans for an investigation of Sebelius’ actions by the Government Accountability Office.
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