GOP widening Sebelius shakedown probe

posted at 4:01 pm on May 24, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

A day after insurers complained that Kathleen Sebelius and the Obama administration had pressured them to fund Enroll America, a House committee sent them a request for more information on the matter.  The Energy and Commerce Committee had already begun looking into whether Sebelius had broken any laws by attempting to get donations from an industry that will be heavily regulated by her under ObamaCare, and now The Hill reports this new request as a widening of that probe (via Rare):

House Republicans have widened their probe of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius by asking the country’s largest health insurers for information on her fundraising for a nonprofit group promoting ObamaCare.

Leaders on the Energy and Commerce Committee wrote to 15 insurance companies and other groups on Friday asking whether Sebelius had contacted them to solicit funds for ObamaCare’s implementation.

Companies should hand over any internal communications that document conversations with Sebelius or discussions about her request, including emails, lawmakers wrote.

The key to understanding this request is the nature of Enroll America.  It’s a non-profit group that will supposedly help to get Americans to participate in ObamaCare exchanges — a task of HHS, actually.  Sebelius wants the assistance to keep from having to ask for more funds from Congress to accomplish the enrollment, which could require tax hikes on insurers.

Instead, Republicans argue, Sebelius is attempting to impose a quasi-tax on insurers by pushing them for donations at the same time they have to qualify themselves and their health-care plans with HHS.  Enroll America has former and current Obama administration figures in its top ranks, making the connection even more explicit. Refusing to ante up for Enroll America might prejudice HHS in its determinations — a suggestion that would have sounded unlikely until this month’s IRS corruption scandal showed federal agencies perfectly willing to discriminate based on politics.

If indeed that was Sebelius’ plan, it violates the concept of the separation of powers.  The executive branch is accountable to the legislative branch primarily through the power of the purse.  An attempt to bypass that accountability by setting up supposedly independent private organizations and then twisting arms using enforcement power to fund them would be a serious breach of that division of power.  The committee wants to know exactly what Sebelius and HHS may have threatened or promised in exchange for those funds.

Perhaps it’s nothing.  Perhaps it’s worse than it looks.  We certainly aren’t going to find out the truth just by asking the White House, as the ever-changing stories on the IRS scandal and Eric Holder’s fibs in Congress prove.  Expect the House to run this ground ball out even if three other scandals take up more of the focus in Congress.

Update: Senator Lamar Alexander likened this to Iran-Contra in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal (h/t: John Ekdahl of Ace):

The Washington Post quoted an HHS spokesman last week saying, “We requested additional money [from Congress] . . . but we didn’t receive any additional funding for the exchanges. So we had to come up with Plan B.”

My immediate thought was: Isn’t “Plan B” what got Oliver North in trouble during the 1980s?

While working in the Reagan administration, Col. North was accused of using money raised in an arms-for-hostages swap with Iran to fund and work with private organizations providing military support to rebel armies in Nicaragua. North was found to have done this even though Congress had refused to provide funding and prohibited spending any available funds for such purposes.

A select Joint Committee of Congress investigated what became known as Iran-Contra. The problem was not just where the money came from, but also where and how it was spent. Article I of the U.S. Constitution does not permit government officials to spend money that Congress has refused to authorize or appropriate. Federal laws such as the Anti-Deficiency Act make this behavior unlawful.

There is, of course, a difference between Nicaraguan rebels and health care. With Iran-Contra, Congress had also prohibited support for the rebels, while in the case of health-care funding, Congress has refused to provide the amounts that the administration has asked for. But the principle and the legal prohibitions are the same.

The report of the bipartisan majority of the Iran-Contra Select Committee summarized the law in November 1987: “The Constitution does prohibit receipt and collection of such funds by this government absent an appropriation. This appropriation may not be evaded by use of a nominally private entity if the entity is in reality an arm of the government and the government is able to direct how the money is spent.”

The report also said: “Congress’s exclusive control over the expenditure of funds cannot legally be evaded though the use of gifts or donations to the executive branch. Were it otherwise, a president whose appropriation requests were rejected by Congress could raise money through private sources or from other countries for armies, military actions, arms systems or even domestic programs.” Note: even domestic programs.

Be sure to read it all.

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Sebelius is one of the biggest Obama capos, along with Holder and Napolitano.

OT – another azzhole

Schadenfreude on May 24, 2013 at 4:03 PM

Is there anyone the Obama Thuggery has not shaken down?

Schadenfreude on May 24, 2013 at 4:03 PM

POTUS has no shame…

ladyingray on May 24, 2013 at 4:06 PM

======================================================================
For those who know history: the parallels between sebeilus-gate and oliver north-gate (aka: Iran-Contra) money issues during the Reagan admin are fundamentally the same. The d-cRAT-controlled House went after Reagan on north-gate fiercely and relentlessly. The boehner-self-serving-establishment-Repub-wimp-contolled House is doing little more than joining boehner in a good cry in his office over sebelius-gate. The “Repub Party” is DEAD.

TeaPartyNation on May 24, 2013 at 4:07 PM

Mussolini and Hitler would be proud.

NotCoach on May 24, 2013 at 4:09 PM

desperate gop
-lsm talking point

cmsinaz on May 24, 2013 at 4:09 PM

Mussolini and Hitler would be proud.

NotCoach on May 24, 2013 at 4:09 PM

And they would want details of how it was accomplished for use in other “tactical” situations.

oldroy on May 24, 2013 at 4:12 PM

The key to understanding this request is the nature of Enroll America. It’s a non-profit group that will supposedly help to get Americans to participate in ObamaCare exchanges — a task of HHS, actually. Sebelius wants the assistance to keep from having to ask for more funds from Congress to accomplish the enrollment, which could require tax hikes on insurers.

Instead, Republicans argue, Sebelius is attempting to impose a quasi-tax on insurers by pushing them for donations at the same time they have to qualify themselves and their health-care plans with HHS. Enroll America has former and current Obama administration figures in its top ranks, making the connection even more explicit. Refusing to ante up for Enroll America might is guaranteed to prejudice HHS in its determinations — a suggestion that would have sounded unlikely until this month’s IRS corruption scandal showed federal agencies perfectly willing to discriminate based on politics.

If indeed that was Sebelius’ plan, it violates the concept of the separation of powers. The executive branch is accountable to the legislative branch primarily through the power of the purse. An attempt to bypass that accountability by setting up supposedly independent private organizations and then twisting arms using enforcement power to fund them would be a serious breach of that division of power.

Actually, it’s called “business as usual” in Chicago. One of the time- “honored” tricks there is to create non-profit “charitable organizations”, and then solicit “contributions” from businesses. The unwritten law being that if you, the businessman, don’t contribute, not only won’t you get city contracts but Bad Things Will Happen. To your business, your family, and ultimately you personally.

This is a textbook “Chi-town Shakedown”, and I suppose I should be surprised and outraged at its blatancy. But I’m not. I’m past being surprised by what these thugs are willing to try, and as for being outraged, I long ago trained myself not to get angry. Over anything.

I just maintain that at some point, there will have to be a legal reckoning. And when that day comes, The One and his minions will realize, a bit too late, that being a “wiseguy” and being smart are two entirely different things.

clear ether

eon

eon on May 24, 2013 at 4:14 PM

It’s astounding that Obama’s administration practices Chicago machine politics in almost every department. I wonder why that is?

gwelf on May 24, 2013 at 4:18 PM

Federal regulations do not allow department officials to fundraise in their professional capacity. They do, however, allow Cabinet members to solicit donations as private citizens “if you do not solicit funds from a subordinate or from someone who has or seeks business with the Department, and you do not use your official title,” according to Justice Department regulations.

Heh.

LASue on May 24, 2013 at 4:19 PM

how to get an independent prosecutor?

Dr. Demento on May 24, 2013 at 4:19 PM

I wonder how long it took Enroll America to get their non-profit status approved through the IRS?

Ditkaca on May 24, 2013 at 4:22 PM

POTUS has no shame…

ladyingray on May 24, 2013 at 4:06 PM

POS POTUS has no shame…

VegasRick on May 24, 2013 at 4:22 PM

Of course you squeeze the people and businesses you regulate or otherwise control. It’s the Chicago Way. Just ask any small businessmen in Chicago. Or John Kass.

Obama and his crew may have run aground on scaling issues arising from trying to bring the Chicago Way to the Potomac and beyond. The stage is much bigger and brighter and the extortion targets are national industries. The thugs have substantially less relative leverage than a Chicago Machine building inspector wields over a small business owner.

They’ve been engaged in this thuggery from the day after Obama was first elected. We will ultimately discover that it was pervasive in the lower levels of government. But they have overplayed their hands and the everyday thuggery is being exposed. You can do that in Chicago, no problem. It was looking like you could do that in DC too, but maybe not.

novaculus on May 24, 2013 at 4:23 PM

I’m old enough to remember when people used to go to jail for stuff like this.

ghostwalker1 on May 24, 2013 at 4:23 PM

House Republicans have widened their probe of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius by asking the country’s largest health insurers for information on her fundraising for a nonprofit group promoting ObamaCare.

So IRS cleared this ” non-profit” how fast ?
Luv to see what questions this ” non-profit” answered ?

burrata on May 24, 2013 at 4:24 PM

Broke any laws? Since when was extortion legalized?

pat on May 24, 2013 at 4:25 PM

POS POTUS has no shame…

VegasRick on May 24, 2013 at 4:22 PM

Beat me to the punch…

SteveInRTP on May 24, 2013 at 4:26 PM

No, no, no…………. this isn’t the fourth scandal. Since 2009 they are too numerous to count.

The only scandal is that BO was elected to begin with.

The second scandal is that he was reelected.

Cody1991 on May 24, 2013 at 4:26 PM

Sebelius – Lying Crook
Holder – Lying Crook
Jarrett – Liar
Clinton – Liar
Emanuel – Liar

Who’s left in the O administration?

Tater Salad on May 24, 2013 at 4:28 PM

OT – for this weekend

Schadenfreude on May 24, 2013 at 4:29 PM

Schadenfreude on May 24, 2013 at 4:29 PM

nice linky

cmsinaz on May 24, 2013 at 4:32 PM

A day after insurers complained that Kathleen Sebelius and the Obama administration had pressured them to fund Enroll America,

The consummate D.C. criminal machine.

Dr. ZhivBlago on May 24, 2013 at 4:32 PM

Pride goeth before destruction and a hauty spirit before a fall.

txhsmom on May 24, 2013 at 4:38 PM

Perhaps it’s nothing. Perhaps it’s worse than it looks. We certainly aren’t going to find out the truth just by asking the White House, as the ever-changing stories on the IRS scandal and Eric Holder’s fibs in Congress prove. Expect the House to run this ground ball out even if three other scandals take up more of the focus in Congress.

Scandal-chasing, it’s not just for conspiracy nuts anymore.

Happy Nomad on May 24, 2013 at 4:40 PM

Who’s left in the O administration?

Tater Salad on May 24, 2013 at 4:28 PM

Everyone you mentioned is in the inner circle of shame. They are untouchable. When the right wing radicals finish their “witchhunt” we’ll find out that the mastermind behind the IRS scandal, the Benghazi cover-up, the DoJ attacks on journalists, the EPA and HHS scandals is a GS12 analyst named Bob.

Happy Nomad on May 24, 2013 at 4:47 PM

“There is no controlling legal authority.”

Thus Spake the Goracle, prophesying more than he knew.

de rigueur on May 24, 2013 at 4:52 PM

These guys could make Al Capone blush.

RadClown on May 24, 2013 at 4:53 PM

another POS

KOOLAID2 on May 24, 2013 at 5:01 PM

Sebelius is Nurse Ratchad.

Schadenfreude on May 24, 2013 at 5:11 PM

Oddly enough, when you elect lying corrupt weasels to office, who then appoint lying corrupt weasels to positions of power, you get behavior befitting lying corrupt weasels.

Go figure.

Midas on May 24, 2013 at 5:14 PM

I beat Lamar by a week and a half:

Does anyone remember Iran-Contra?

Attila (Pillage Idiot) on May 12, 2013 at 5:02 PM

Attila (Pillage Idiot) on May 24, 2013 at 5:32 PM

Yes, the actions of this administration are nothing more than Chicago thuggery writ large. For a guided tour of Chicago Machine politics, go to the library and check out anything Mike Royko ever wrote and Robert Campbell’s Jimmy Flannery mystery novels.

catsandbooks on May 24, 2013 at 5:55 PM

Sebelius is Nurse Ratchad.

Schadenfreude on May 24, 2013 at 5:11 PM

Great analogy, but who is the Chief who will break us out of the Cuckoo’s Nest? Darrell Issa?

Congress has refused to provide the amounts that the administration has asked for. But the principle and the legal prohibitions are the same.

The problem is, Congress controlled by the Pelosi-crats gave Sebelius all the power she now wields (they had to vote for it before knowing what’s in it), and can a new Congress (under Boehner) take back power given to her by an old Congress (under Pelosi)?

Any Constitutional scholar know the answer to this question? Other than Obama and John Roberts?

Steve Z on May 24, 2013 at 6:01 PM

it’s a non-profit group that will supposedly help to get Americans to participate in ObamaCare exchanges

Why the hell do we need any “non-profit” group to implement government policy?

BacaDog on May 24, 2013 at 6:02 PM

Sebelius is Nurse Ratchad.

Schadenfreude on May 24, 2013 at 5:11 PM

LoLz..I thought Hillary was in that role..:)

Dire Straits on May 24, 2013 at 6:05 PM

Refusing to ante up for Enroll America might prejudice HHS in its determinations — a suggestion that would have sounded unlikely until this month’s IRS corruption scandal showed federal agencies perfectly willing to discriminate based on politics.

Sounded unlikely to whom? Surely not anyone paying attention to the words and deeds of this administration since day one.

BKeyser on May 24, 2013 at 9:03 PM

4th ?!?!?! We need a recount.

Fast and Furious (We ain’t forgot THAT one yet!!!)

Benghazi

IRS

AP Phone Hacking

Fox Phone Hacking (yes, each should have its own charge/count)

Press manipulation (private meetings with left wing press)

Fail to act decisively in regards to Syria

Egypt

Bill Ayers and his spouse

Who the hell IS “Reggie”?

Our tax payer money into “green” suck holes for companies that have gone bankrupt one after the other.

Imigration reform manipulation in regards to working with mexico and offering our tax dollars to illegal mexican citizens for political gain here in the US.

What are his ties, exactly to Saudi Royals….? (the bow to the king spoke volumes to some of us)

and who the hel1 knows what else is yet to bubble up from the deep, late on a Friday…….

RealMc on May 25, 2013 at 10:03 AM

Anyone remember the number of folks (all men as I recall) who went to JAIL during and after the Watergate investigation?
10? 20? 30?
Was a fairly lengthy list as I recall. Several fellows from Cuba made the early list. G. Gordon Liddy did about 5 in both a D.C. jail (a total hell-hole) and an FCI. And not one of those where you work on your tennis serve either.

OK John Bohner, put down the scotch & cigarettes and come off the golf course and get to work.
If not we’ll witness the most INEFFECTIVE Speaker of the House in the entire history of the Republic.
I’ll not hold my breath.

Missilengr on May 26, 2013 at 12:06 PM