HHS: Hey, some of our e-mails Congress wants are missing too
posted at 10:41 am on August 8, 2014 by Ed Morrissey
It’s an epidemic! Or so it seems in the most transparent administration ever, anyway. Congress has been probing the disastrous rollout of ObamaCare, to find out exactly how the Department of Health and Human Services could have botched the job with three and a half years and nearly a billion dollars to spend. Once again, key records that are required to be retained have been deleted before investigators could see them:
A top U.S. healthcare official involved in the botched rollout of the website HealthCare.gov may have deleted some emails that were later sought by Republican congressional investigators, administration officials said on Thursday.
The emails were from a public email account maintained by Marilyn Tavenner, who heads the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agency chiefly responsible for implementing President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law.
What excuse did the Obama administration give? The same excuse as with the IRS:
The letter made no reference to any evidence that Tavenner intentionally hid or destroyed the emails. An administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, attributed the potential loss to “sloppy record keeping”.
Tavenner is no low-level employee from an office in Cincinnati. She ran the agency responsible for the creation of Healthcare.gov and for the waste of hundreds of millions of dollars in its failure. Despite the failure of Healthcare.gov and the disaster of the rollout of the Obama administration’s central policy project, Tavenner still inexplicably remains head of CMS — and perhaps her “sloppy record keeping” might be one reason why.
This isn’t merely inconvenient. It’s a violation of federal records retention law. As a high-ranking politically-appointed official, it’s even more incumbent on Tavenner to abide by these statutes and provide a clear record of her professional communications. Congress has the authority to oversee those operations, and the e-mail record is in the final analysis owned by taxpayers, not Tavenner. She had no business deleting e-mails relating to her job, and Tavenner cannot have been ignorant of those requirements at her level. Deletion of e-mails relating to the failures of ObamaCare has to be presumed to have been deceptive.
Katie Pavlich reports on the response from House Oversight chair Darrell Issa:
“Today’s news that a senior HHS executive destroyed emails relevant to a congressional investigation means that the Obama Administration has lost or destroyed emails for more than 20 witnesses, and in each case, the loss wasn’t disclosed to the National Archives or Congress for months or years, in violation of federal law,” Issa said in response. “It defies logic that so many senior Administration officials were found to have ignored federal record keeping requirements only after Congress asked to see their emails. Just this week, my staff followed up with HHS, who has failed to comply with a subpoena from ten months ago. Even at that point, the administration did not inform us that there was a problem with Ms. Tavenner’s email history. Yet again, we discover that this Administration will not be forthright with the American people unless cornered.”
What does this tell us? It tells us that Congress needs to keep looking into these issues. Bureaucrats don’t keep losing records unless they have a reason to make sure those records have to be kept out of sight.