Department of Propaganda? Update: AOL Hot Seat poll added

Maybe this is the Hope and Change we were promised.  One official government website now includes a form to express support of Dear Leader President Obama’s effort to overhaul the American medical system, a clear violation of laws against executive-branch propaganda through public channels.  Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) sent a letter demanding an explanation from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, on whose website this form appears:

Senate Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is raising concerns that a Department of Health and Human Services Web site that urges visitors to send an e-mail to President Barack Obama praising his health care reform plan may violate rules against government-funded propaganda.

The Web page is accessed through a “state your support” button featured prominently on the HHS Web site and carries a disclaimer that the Web site is maintained by HHS.

In a letter sent to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Tuesday, Grassley warned that “any possible misuse of appropriated funds by the executive branch to engage in publicity or propaganda in support of an Administration priority is a matter that must be investigated and taken seriously,” noting that in 2005 Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) argued that “the use of official funds for similar activities were ‘underhanded tactics’ and that these tactics ‘are not worthy of our great democracy.’”

Subtle, it ain’t.  Here’s a screenshot of the main HHS website; note the graphic on the sidebar:

It reads: “Many Americans are struggling to make ends meet as the cost of care goes up while others face losing insurance as businesses struggle to cover employees. Visit“.  When people click on the graphic or the link, they go to the site accurately reported by Roll Call as a campaign site for Obama’s health-care reform efforts, on the .gov site that should be for official business only.  People can add their names and contact information in support of the following letter:

Dear Mr. President,

We strongly support your commitment to comprehensive health reform.

This is not a luxury. The continuing, sharp escalation of health care costs for families, businesses, and government is unsustainable. Reform is imperative.

We believe that health reform must be enacted this year.

Reform is needed to help America’s families struggling with rising costs and those who are losing their insurance. At the same time, real health reform is crucial to keeping American businesses competitive in the world economy and for the country’s long-term economic viability. As our country faces economic challenges, the time for reform is now.

We support health reform that follows these principles:

  • Protect families’ financial health
  • Assure affordable, quality health coverage for all Americans
  • Provide portability of coverage
  • Guarantee choice of doctors
  • Invest in prevention and wellness
  • Improve patient safety and quality of care
  • End barriers to coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions
  • Reduce long-term growth of health costs for businesses and government

During these extraordinarily challenging times, we need to put aside past differences and address the health and economic crisis. Our shared interest must come before narrow interests so we can achieve a health system that is affordable and provides high quality for all Americans. We will support your budget with its reserve fund dedicated to achieving health care reform in a fiscally responsible manner. Each of us must be prepared to contribute to achieving this fundamental goal.

By signing this statement we affirm our commitment to work with you and our Congressional leaders to enact legislation this year which provides affordable, high quality coverage for all Americans.

Frankly, it’s impossible to read this as anything but propaganda for the White House.  And what happens to the contact information entered in the form?  Does that get used by Barack Obama for his re-election campaign?  Is he using government websites to fuel a mailing list for his own electoral use?

Grassley wants answers to all of these questions — and so should we all.

Update: Added AOL Hot Seat poll.