Senior Republican senators on Thursday asked the Health and Human Services’ inspector general to investigate Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ fundraising drive to promote the new health care law — a practice ethics specialists have said is anything from a legal stretch to a shakedown for cash.
“These activities call into question whether appropriations and ethics laws are being followed,” said the letter signed by Utah Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, 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.
In a letter to Inspector General Daniel R. Levinson, the top GOP senators on three influential committees asked if Mrs. Sebelius broke any laws or violated ethics guidelines by soliciting insurance companies and other health care industry entities to contribute to a nonprofit that says it will educate Americans about the health law.
Watchdogs and good-government groups disagree over whether Mrs. Sebelius violated federal laws by seeking funds on behalf of a nonprofit group, called Enroll America, to promote “Obamacare,” but all say asking private companies and entities to financially support the rollout of the massive and complex law raises serious ethical questions for the Obama administration, which is already reeling from a string of recent controversies.
The administration and its critics were also sparring over whether Mrs. Sebelius was targeting private companies and other groups that she would soon be regulating as part of the health bill, or that could be in line for contracts to help implement the law.
“Obviously, there’s an appearance problem,” said Melanie Sloan, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “If she was soliciting for a Girl Scout troop in her neighborhood — something totally unrelated to health care — I don’t think you would have these questions, but she is charged with implementing the most significant health care changes in a generation.” - Washington Times, 05/30/2013
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