Issa requests docs from HHS on Obamacare grantees violating lobbying prohibitions

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House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa has requested documents from the Department of Health and Human Services regarding money from Obamacare’s Prevention and Public Health Fund going toward lobbying efforts.

Issa sent a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius late last week pointing out that taxpayer money — through Prevention and Public Health Fund grants — has been used for lobbying efforts, despite, Issa asserts, explicit prohibitions banning the practice.

The grants, administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are allocated for “promoting wellness, preventing disease, and protecting against public health emergencies.”

In the letter, obtained by The Daily Caller, Issa wrote that there are multiple statutes — including language in the fiscal year 2012 appropriations bill, 18 U.S.C. Section 1913 (aka the “Anti-Lobbying Act,” in effect since 1919), the 1989 Byrd Amendment, and HHS’ own regulations — prohibiting taxpayer money from going toward lobbying, at any level of government, as well as examples of grantees using federal funds to lobby local officials.

Despite these apparently clear prohibitions against using federal funds for lobbying at the federal, state, or local government levels, and despite HHS’ assurances grants were awarded according to Anti-Lobbying prohibitions and the agency’s own AR-12 guidelines, the CDC appears to have violated this long-standing provision in issuing Patient Protection and Affordable Act’s “Prevention and Public Health Fund” grants. For instance:

  • The County of St. Louis, Missouri sought, and received, a $7.5 million dollar grant to in part identify “a County Council member willing to introduce amendments … “
  • The Executive Office of the Governor of Delaware sought, and received, a $1,022,792 dollar grant to in part “seek sponsorship of (a) bill …”
  • The Iowa Department of Public Health sought, and received, a $600,256 grant to in part “support passage” and lobby two legislative representatives “to sponsor (a) bill in upcoming session”
  • The Colorado Department of Public Health sought, and received, a $793,946 grant to in part “secure bill sponsors for legislation”

Since its inception in 2010, HHS has awarded $1.25 billion in Prevention Fund grants.

“As Secretary of HHS, the CDC follows your guidance regarding anti-lobbying,” Issa wrote. “As such, I am concerned with conflicting messages regarding HHS’s position on lobbying with federal funds that you have conveyed in your most recent testimonies on Capitol Hill.” (RELATED: Full coverage of Obamacare)

Issa pointed out that in testimony before the House Committee on Ways and Means in February, Sebelius expressed that lobbying could not take place with these grants, but in March, before the House Appropriations Committee, she asserted that “lobbying prohibitions don’t apply to local lobbying.”

The Oversight chairman requested that the agency provide his committee with HHS’s position on lobbying with taxpayer funds as well as a copies of the agency’s grant-making policy for lobbying; all correspondence from HHS to CDC regarding  lobbying and Prevention and Public Health Fund grants; a list of all Prevention and Public Health Fund grant applicants and applications; all “decision memos” dealing with awarding the grants; and all correspondence between HHS, CDC and the White House dealing with awarding Prevention and Public Health Fund grants by March 30, 2012.

HHS did not respond to The Daily Caller’s request for comment.

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