June 11 2013

Kathleen Sebelius' Tin Cup

Charlotte Hays

Okay, maybe our government is dysfunctional.

But obviously it wouldn’t be stupid enough to pass a massive, new law that it didn’t have the money to put into place. Nah, that would be nuts.

But that is essentially what happened with ObamaCare, if the woman charged with implementing it is to be believed.

Here is an account that appeared on a Kaiser Permanente site of what this official said on Capitol Hill:

[Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius] today was very candid. She said that she knew and others knew – even when the health law was passed – that the government wouldn’t have enough money on its own to implement it. And that she is talking to anyone who will listen about trying to make sure that Americans who qualify for the health law’s exchanges or for the Medicaid expansion know about it and enroll in it.

Let that sink in: Congress passes a 2,000 plus piece of legislation, the president’s signature achievement, but—golly—we don’t have the money to actually do it. I’m thinking that this might be the most characteristic “achievement” of the Obama years: passing laws we can’t afford. And then expecting the money to appear as if by magic.

In this instance, the secretary has grabbed her tin cup and gone a-begging. Perhaps she’d prefer to just raise taxes but those pesky renegades in the House pose a problem.  Still, the notion of Uncle Sam as a favorite charity is a little disconcerting. Mightn't executives of big companies feel compelled to fork over for such a powerful "charity" as the federal government?

Moreover, Ms. Sebelius has solicited the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which holds 13 million shares of Johnson & Johnson, which is directly regulated by Ms. Sebelius. Sebelius saw no conflict.

Others definitely do. The Free Beacon writes:

However, former White House chief ethics counsel Richard Painter said RWJF’s large investment in Johnson & Johnson, a company under Sebelius’ regulatory purview, makes the foundation a “prohibited source” that she cannot solicit money from under government ethics rules.

“[The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation] might as well be Johnson & Johnson so far as the ethics rules on solicitation are concerned,” Painter, who served as President George W. Bush’s ethics counsel from 2005 to 2007, told the Washington Free Beacon. “The HHS secretary can’t ask them for money.”

Johnson & Johnson, and RWJF did not respond to requests for comment. A Johnson & Johnson spokesperson told the Free Beacon on Tuesday that the foundation has no affiliation with the company.

According to Office of Government Ethics rules, federal employees cannot solicit money from a source that “does business or seeks to do business with the employee’s agency,” “conducts activities regulated by the employee’s agency,” “has interests that may be substantially affected by performance or nonperformance of the employee’s official duties,” or is “an organization a majority of whose members are described” by the preceding criteria.

Many current and former RWJF board members were previously Johnson & Johnson executives or work in the healthcare industry.

Sebelius also hit up (excuse me: asked) H&R Block for money. The secretary said she only talked to Johnson & Johnson, Ascension Health, and Kaiser Permanente without extending her tin cup.

It is bizarre to see a Cabinet secretary begging the money to implement the law.

What is even more bizarre is Congress' passing a law that, according to a key figure in the process, many in government knew we didn’t have the money to make it work.

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