GAO report: White House directly involved in Enroll America fundraising

posted at 12:01 pm on April 21, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

When Congress refused to appropriate more funds for ObamaCare enrollment after already committing a deluge of cash to that effort, now-outgoing HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius began working the phones to perform an end run around Capitol Hill. Sebelius began calling corporate CEOs to push them into donating millions of dollars to Enroll America, an outside group started by Anne Filipic, a former White House staffer. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigated, and discovered that Filipic wasn’t the only White House staffer involved in the fundraising campaign:

The White House allegedly was involved in seeking financial support for a pro-ObamaCare group, according to a new report issued in response to Republican concerns about the administration’s fundraising efforts.

Until now, outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was the only official known to have solicited financial support for Enroll America, a nonprofit that promoted enrollment for the Affordable Care Act. But a Government Accountability Office report released Monday detailed not only the secretary’s involvement but that of a White House adviser.

According to the report, though HHS officials said they were “not aware” of any federal government officials outside the agency soliciting funds for Enroll America, a representative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation told GAO “about a discussion” in 2012 between one of their staffers and the “Deputy Assistant to the President for Health Policy.”

Though not named in the report, this would have been Jeanne Lambrew. The GAO said they were told the official nudged the foundation to give a “significant” contribution.

Here’s the relevant quote from their report, emphases mine:

HHS officials reported that they were not aware of any federal government personnel outside of HHS who solicited funds on behalf of Enroll America. Similarly, representatives from Enroll America told us that they were not aware of any other federal personnel who solicited funds on its behalf. The representative of RWJF, one of the two organizations that HHS contacted to solicit funds on behalf of Enroll America, told us about a discussion that occurred in 2012 between an RWJF staff member and the Deputy Assistant to the President for Health Policy. According to RWJF, this official estimated that Enroll America or other similar national enrollment organizations would likely need about $30 million to finance a national outreach effort. RWJF told us that the official also indicated a hope that RWJF would provide a significant financial contribution to support such efforts, but did not make a specific funding request on behalf of Enroll America or any other outside entity. While White House officials agreed that the Deputy Assistant to the President for Health Policy did not make a specific funding request on behalf of Enroll America or any other outside entity, they stated that this official did not offer RWJF a specific estimate of the level of financial support needed for national outreach efforts. They further stated that a reference to financial support like that suggested by RWJF was possible, but in connection with broad strategic discussions related to national outreach efforts that included discussions of both financial and nonfinancial support for such efforts. The RWJF representative also told us that the foundation’s CEO asked White House officials whether it would be appropriate to describe a $10 million dollar grant the foundation had awarded to Enroll America in a May 2013 meeting of philanthropic foundation executives sponsored by and held at the White House.7 The RWJF representative further told us that the White House did not object and that RWJF described the grant at the meeting.

The conclusion focuses more on Sebelius:

Our review of HHS’s written responses and documentation found that, since the enactment of PPACA, the Secretary of HHS contacted the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of five organizations to solicit support for one outside entity, Enroll America, involved in activities related to PPACA. Specifically, the Secretary requested financial support for Enroll America from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and H&R Block; and nonfinancial support, such as technical assistance, from Ascension Health, Johnson & Johnson, and Kaiser (which consists of the Kaiser Foundation Health Plans and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals).5 Our review of the documentation also found that the Secretary asked for guidance on soliciting support for outside entities prior to making these five contacts and obtained specific written guidance from HHS’s OGC prior to making four of them. Among other things, this guidance stated that HHS officials may encourage members of the public to support certain organizations assisting Americans to enroll in coverage under PPACA, pursuant to authority provided under sections 1703 and 1704 of the Public Health Service Act.6

The GAO probed five corporate contacts, but suggests that the scope was much wider. Sebelius certainly left that impression with its contacts:

HHS also reported that the Secretary interacts regularly with a broad range of stakeholders on PPACA-related issues and occasionally mentions the work of Enroll America. HHS documentation from April 2013 indicated that the Secretary’s standard talking points for meetings with stakeholders (e.g., hospitals, insurers, and drug companies) included discussing Enroll America’s efforts and noting that HHS was working closely with Enroll America.

It’s worth noting at this point that HHS regulates these markets in significant ways, especially after the passage of ObamaCare. This wasn’t just a case of working the phones for a charity. This was the Cabinet official with the most impact on these businesses extolling the efforts of a supposedly independent group launched by a close adviser to the President. It doesn’t take much ink to connect those dots, which is why insurers began complaining loudly enough about the pressure for Congress and the media to take notice.

It was a shakedown, pure and simple, to wring more money and assistance out of industry players in order to bypass Congress on funding operations within the executive branch. That should prompt Congress to demand more answers, and perhaps to cut off even more funding to HHS until they get them.


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Russia and China have NO mandates, thugs.

Schadenfreude on April 21, 2014 at 12:03 PM

Just another day…………………..

VegasRick on April 21, 2014 at 12:05 PM

Regime

forest on April 21, 2014 at 12:05 PM

Riiight–Congress do anything? Boehner probably called around to fund obamacare as well.

Vanceone on April 21, 2014 at 12:06 PM

The sooner Obama, Axelrod, Plouffe, Lerner and the rest spend a few years in SuperMax the better.

Tater Salad on April 21, 2014 at 12:06 PM

Isn’t this cover under RICO?

Tater Salad on April 21, 2014 at 12:07 PM

Oh goodie! Another opportunity to watch a slow walk response to a congessional request for information.

butch on April 21, 2014 at 12:07 PM

It was a shakedown, pure and simple, to wring more money and assistance out of industry players in order to bypass Congress on funding operations within the executive branch. That should prompt Congress to demand more answers, and perhaps to cut off even more funding to HHS until they get them.

It was indeed a shakedown and illegal as hell. But seriously, what is Congress going to do but bluster a bit. Keep in mind that these are the same critters the surrender caucus was lauding as heroes when they caved and passed the damn budget “clean” with no ties to Obamacare. You really think they or the cowards that supported them then are going to see this as the hill worth taking?

Hah! Lots of luck with that.

Happy Nomad on April 21, 2014 at 12:08 PM

I’m confident that Eric Holder & the DOJ/FBI will be mighty interested in this, and will investigate it promptly. NOT.

majorzot on April 21, 2014 at 12:09 PM

“Punish our enemies” (domestic only) is Obamas’ personal motto.

tim c on April 21, 2014 at 12:09 PM

Sounds so much like another off shoot of Acorn.

fourdeucer on April 21, 2014 at 12:12 PM

Corrupt political hacks operating like corrupt political hacks.

Color me shocked.

It’s just business as usual in the criminal cabal that calls itself the Obama administration.

AZCoyote on April 21, 2014 at 12:12 PM

John Boehner and Mitch McConnell need you to write that in crayon. With stick figures.

They didn’t get it.

Marcus Traianus on April 21, 2014 at 12:13 PM

Nothing to see here……Koch!!!!
-lsm

cmsinaz on April 21, 2014 at 12:15 PM

Nice business you have there, it would be a shame if something happened to it.

HumpBot Salvation on April 21, 2014 at 12:16 PM

Fast & Furious.

Akzed on April 21, 2014 at 12:19 PM

Impunity breeds contempt.

Rix on April 21, 2014 at 12:19 PM

Government is the only thing we all do together. Capice?

gwelf on April 21, 2014 at 12:23 PM

That should prompt Congress to demand more answers, and perhaps to cut off even more funding to HHS until they get them.

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!

Lanceman on April 21, 2014 at 12:24 PM

These accusations are clearly part of the War on Women with racial overtones – or should that be the other way around?

Forward!

Drained Brain on April 21, 2014 at 12:24 PM

OT – you c/b paying for the Marxist’s libery.

Schadenfreude on April 21, 2014 at 12:25 PM

How gullible are you if you are surprised by this?

Mord on April 21, 2014 at 12:26 PM

Fast & Furious.

Akzed on April 21, 2014 at 12:19 PM

False and Spurious

cthemfly on April 21, 2014 at 12:26 PM

Spin, spin, spin

Schadenfreude on April 21, 2014 at 12:29 PM

Tempest in a teapot. The real scandal is the enrollment of foreign nationals in the program, required enrollment of anyone reporting to a government benefits office and all parolees.

MTF on April 21, 2014 at 12:32 PM

It was a shakedown, pure and simple, to wring more money and assistance out of industry players in order to bypass Congress on funding operations within the executive branch.

It’s the Chicago Way.

rbj on April 21, 2014 at 12:33 PM

Fish rot from head.

The Chicagoization of our once great country. Welcome to third world status where we are a nation of men, not of laws.

jukin3 on April 21, 2014 at 12:34 PM

Okay, so … When is obama going to be impeached?

Pork-Chop on April 21, 2014 at 12:36 PM

I’m going to do a Hillary here, at this point what difference does it make? This man can do ANYTHING and get away with it.

Cindy Munford on April 21, 2014 at 12:39 PM

And what kind of dumbass CEO who’s bottom line is already taking a beating from Obamacare turns around that gives Obama money to make said bottom line worse? There is a whole lot of stupid in this country right now and I honestly don’t see how we get over it.

Cindy Munford on April 21, 2014 at 12:41 PM

Laws always end up serving those who own the government. Wishing for rule by law instead of less overall rule just keeps these bums in business.

Free people are never ‘governed’.

Another Libertarian on April 21, 2014 at 12:42 PM

Democrats are afraid of John not want to kick Democrats butt Boenher, and Mitch I want to be a democrat Mcconnell. LOL LOL LOL. Both of them will want to RUN OUT THE CLOCK, and will do NOTHING TO HURT THEIR BUDDIES the Democrats.

If Mitch and Johnny Boy were not so dumb, 2016 presidential race should already be in the books for the Republican party. All they have to do is talk about the culture of corruption in the Democrat party. That should be their main slogan. Whenever any Republicans go into a talk show, they should point out how corrupt the democrat party is.
NO JOHNNY boy does not want to kick the Democrats Butt.

BroncosRock on April 21, 2014 at 12:43 PM

Speaker Boehner says this is “way sad” and makes him want to cry… and pass an amnesty bill.

No, they’re not connected, but everything makes him want to pass an amnesty bill these days, even the morning sunrise.

IndieDogg on April 21, 2014 at 12:44 PM

The marxist is rich enough, and has oodles of azz-dwellers, who should pay for their unfulfilled dreams. Quit this nonsense.

Schadenfreude on April 21, 2014 at 12:46 PM

It was indeed a shakedown and illegal as hell.

Happy Nomad on April 21, 2014 at 12:08 PM

No, no ,no. You miss the broader point you should know and be comfortable with by now. It is NOT illegal, because the SCOAMF makes the laws.

Now, we’ll hear no more of that, okay?

NOMOBO on April 21, 2014 at 12:47 PM

No, no ,no. You miss the broader point you should know and be comfortable with by now. It is NOT illegal, because the SCOAMF makes the laws.

NOMOBO on April 21, 2014 at 12:47 PM

You’re probably right. Boehner and McConnell will not bother even looking into these charges.

Happy Nomad on April 21, 2014 at 12:50 PM

Next Up: Federal Insurance Office Seeks Comments on Auto Insurance Affordability

“If you like your car insurance, you can keep your car insurance.”

Akzed on April 21, 2014 at 12:52 PM

Crooks!

rjoco1 on April 21, 2014 at 12:54 PM

You’re probably right. Boehner and McConnell will not bother even looking into these charges.

Happy Nomad on April 21, 2014 at 12:50 PM

McConnell will look the other way and wait for Ted Cruz to make it an issue. Boehner will just start to cry. Complicity is a cruel master.

NOMOBO on April 21, 2014 at 1:02 PM

In my best Gomer Pyle voice:

Well, Gah-Lee…Surprise, surprise!

Another Drew on April 21, 2014 at 1:13 PM

Isn’t this cover under RICO?

Tater Salad on April 21, 2014 at 12:07 PM

Holder is working on new clemency standards now.Coincidence?

docflash on April 21, 2014 at 1:15 PM

Does it really go that far? It’s possible, I suppose, but it seems a little far-fetched.

d1carter on April 21, 2014 at 1:16 PM

It’s probably why Sebilius left, they are going to tie this little anchor around her neck.

Cindy Munford on April 21, 2014 at 1:21 PM

What difference does it make?

right2bright on April 21, 2014 at 1:29 PM

Lanceman on April 21, 2014 at 12:24 PM

Color me downright skeptical of this outcome as well.

Repubs won’t even consider challenging it because “the poor…the sick….the children….those EVIIIILLLLLL Republicans!”

lineholder on April 21, 2014 at 1:30 PM

Cindy Munford on April 21, 2014 at 1:21 PM

Maybe.

OTOH, I know a few die-hard socialized medicine supporters (also supporters of Socialism in a broader sense) who are darn near the line of despair over this business.

Obamacare represented an ideology they’ve held onto and have been striving to achieve since the days of New Deal. But for it to genuinely succeed and set the roots of Socialism in America so that the public would actually embrace and support it as a new form of government, Obamacare implementation had to be very, VERY well managed.

It hasn’t been. Not even close. And they see that as destroying a huge opportunity.

Sebelius is tied to that now, forever, to the end of her days.

lineholder on April 21, 2014 at 1:38 PM

That should prompt Congress to demand more answers, and perhaps to cut off even more funding to HHS until they get them.

Well, yes, it should.

What it will actually get you, at best, is another lame-ass round of hearings from Darryl “The Closer” Issa, with absolutely no result. Barky’s team couldn’t care less.

bofh on April 21, 2014 at 1:44 PM

Pshaw! Rules?! We don’t need no stinkin’ rules!

Reminds me of a saying in German for all you “deutschlings”: “Legal…Illegal…Scheiss egal.”

I’m sure that Obama uses that phrase often when he speaks Austrian.

NavyMustang on April 21, 2014 at 2:17 PM

NavyMustang on April 21, 2014 at 2:19 PM

It was a shakedown, pure and simple, to wring more money and assistance out of industry players in order to bypass Congress on funding operations within the executive branch. That should prompt Congress to demand more answers, and perhaps to cut off even more funding to HHS until they get them.

It was also an attempt to bypass Congress’s power of the checkbook by getting outside funding for something Congress did not think worthy of spending more money for. That is no minor quibble, but cuts directly at the heart of Constitutional checks and balances, and has at least once before been ruled illegal by SCOTUS.

There Goes the Neighborhood on April 21, 2014 at 2:33 PM

Any other administration, and it would make Nixon look like a choir boy…

right2bright on April 21, 2014 at 3:01 PM

Look! Squirrels!

bigbeachbird on April 21, 2014 at 3:33 PM

Strongly worded letter from the relevant oversight committee containing lots and lots of question marks & exclamation points to follow.

tanked59 on April 21, 2014 at 4:10 PM

It is waaaayyyy past time for the tar and feathers.

jazzuscounty on April 21, 2014 at 4:30 PM

How do you think these companies and foundations like having paid for “ho”-surance and “bro”-surance and cute kitty and Pyjama Boy commercials and the like?

winoceros on April 21, 2014 at 4:40 PM

Does it really go that far? It’s possible, I suppose, but it seems a little far-fetched.

d1carter on April 21, 2014 at 1:16 PM

LOL, I saw what you did there.

Midas on April 21, 2014 at 4:40 PM

Not shocking but unlawful…

sorrowen on April 21, 2014 at 6:14 PM