Energy

Energy Department In Hot Water Over Anti-Obamacare Tweet

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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The U.S. Government Accountability Office has determined that the Department of Energy violated the law when it tweeted an op-ed written by Secretary Rick Perry that was critical of Obamacare.

In a report issued Thursday, the GAO found that the Energy Department did, in fact, violate federal appropriations law in 2017 when it shared a health care-related column written by Perry.

“Energy did not provide any explanation or make any particularized showing that communicating about health care is part of its work or is related to accomplishing its statutory mission,” read a portion of the GAO decision that spanned over 2,500 words. More specifically, the GAO found that the tweet violated the “purpose statute” because it was an improper use of taxpayer funds.

The issue dates back all the way to July 2017, when the account @EnergyPressSec tweeted: “Time to discard the burdens and costs of Obamacare: @SecretaryPerry” and linked to an op-ed he wrote for Cleveland.com. Although Perry leads the Energy Department, the column his office tweeted out pertained to the U.S. health care system — not inherently related to energy or his department. The tweet immediately garnered controversy and was deleted later that day.

U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone — a New Jersey Democrat and ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee — called on the GAO to look into the matter. The liberal congressman tweeted out his excitement over the investigative body’s findings.

However, the GAO also determined the tweet did not violate laws that prohibit political lobbying or propaganda, as it did not make a direct appeal for action.

“Energy did not violate the prohibition on using appropriated funds for grassroots lobbying or for publicity or propaganda,” the GAO decision read. “Neither the tweet nor the secretary’s column to which it linked contained a clear appeal to the public to contact members of Congress about pending legislation. In addition, neither the tweet nor the column constituted covert propaganda, purely partisan communications, or self-aggrandizement.” (RELATED: RICK PERRY HINTS AT FEDERAL ACTION TO KEEP ANDREW CUOMO FROM BLOCKING PIPELINES)

The Energy Department disagreed that the tweet violated the “purpose statute,” citing its work relating to healthcare and medical research.

“We are pleased the GAO agreed in its report that ‘neither the tweet nor the Secretary’s column to which it linked contained a clear appeal to the public to contact Members of Congress about pending legislation,'” Shaylyn Hynes, a spokeswoman for the Energy Department, said to the Washington Examiner. “However, the Department disagrees with the conclusion that DOE was in violation of the Purpose Statute. DOE’s Office of General Counsel stated in its response letter to GAO that the OpEd and tweet covered issues well within the mission of the Department of Energy.”

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