One of the players in President Barack Obama’s golf foursome this weekend is also a lead player in another administration scandal, Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Sebelius has been pressuring companies in the health sector to donate funds to allied advocacy groups, such as Enroll America, that are trying to help implement the complicated, far-reaching and politically sensitive Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare.
Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander has compared the fundraising to the 1986 “Iran-Contra” scandal, in which White House officials raised funds from wealthy donors to aid anti-communities guerrillas who had earlier been denied funds by Congress. (Related: Lamar Alexander slams Sebelius over Iran-Contra-style health care scandal)
“If the secretary or others in her department are fundraising and coordinating the activities of Enroll America and soliciting donations to supplement appropriated funds, then those actions may be in violation of the Anti-Deficiency Act,” the senator said May 11.
Sen. Orrin Hatch has also raised concerns, pledging to probe the fundraising to find out “whether there are conflicts of interest and if it violated federal law.”
Sebelius’ deputies say the fund-raising is needed and legal because she’s doing it as a private citizen, and because she’s not directly soliciting funds from the many health-care companies that she regulates.
Sebelius’ May 18 appearance on the links is unusual because Obama prefers to golf with male friends.
He has only taken a woman golfing three times, according to CBS radio’s White House correspondent, Mark Knoller. Obama played 119 rounds of golf during his first term, Knoller calculated.
Sebelius’ outing is her second trip to the links with the president since her nomination to the HHS post in 2009.
Obama’s public support for Sebelius matches his aides’ unapologetic responses to three other top-ranked scandals that exploded this month.
These include the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of Obama’s political enemies in the tea party movement, the White House’s effort to rewrite intelligence reports about the September 2012 jihadi attack on the Benghazi diplomatic compound, and the federal government’s secret seizure of telephone records from the Associated Press new service.
White House officials have denied error in all three cases, but the IRS’ outgoing director symbolically resigned.
Sebelius is trying to get the private-sector funding because the House GOP won’t provide the several billion dollars of additional implementation funds requested by the administration.
The 2010 bill provided $1 billion to help start the program.
Republican House leaders are ideologically opposed to Obamacare, which has lost popularity amid rising health care costs, the impending individual mandate, and growing awareness of the degree to which the law subordinates individual choice to progressive technocrats in Washington. Republicans and most Americans prefer a free-market for health-care services.
Enroll America is led by administration alumni, and is trying to boost public support for the huge Obamacare program.