On the day that Obamacare was adopted by a lame-duck Congress with support only from Democrats, federal officials worked to waive ordinary governmental personnel policies and give the Department of Health and Human Services permission to hire 1,814 top-salary bureaucrats to “expedite” the health care system takeover.
Many of those employees were hired at salaries of $100,000 a year and up, according to the new report from officials at Judicial Watch, a legal team that acts as a watchdog on government operations in Washington.
The group reported that it, working in conjunction with the Heritage Foundation, uncovered records held by the Obama administration revealing that even though there was a government-wide pay freeze in place, the normal hiring practices were abandoned so those top-salary officials could be hired.
The report from Judicial Watch said, “According to the documents, [Office of Personnel Management] Director John Berry gave HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Resources Denise Wells extraordinary ‘direct-hire appointing authority’ (DHA) in order to bypass normal channels and, in Berry’s words, ‘hire quickly’ in order to execute the president’s directive with respect to implementing health care reform.’ In all, HHS was granted permission to utilize what Wells termed the DHA ‘valuable human capital recruitment tool’ to hire 1,814 GS 13-15 employees.”
Among those were 59 Social Science Analyst/Specialists at the GS-15 level, 350 Health Insurance Specialists at the GS-15 level, 55 Administrative and Program Specialists at the GS-15 level, 235 Program Analysts/Management Analysts at the GS-15 level, 40 Accountants at the GS 15 level, 90 Dental Officers at the GS 14 level, 291 Public Health Advisers/Analysts at the GS-14 level, 261 Consumer Safety Officers at the GS-13 level, 92 Grants Management Specialists at the GS-15 level and 291 Information Technology Specialists at the GS-15 level.
And 50 criminal investigators.
Pay scales ranged from $70,000 to $130,000, with at least 1,100 above the $100,000 level.
The questions were raised because HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius had gone “hat in hand, to health industry officials, asking them to make large financial donations to help with the effort to implement President Obama’s landmark health-care law,” the report said.
The subject got the attention of Congress and drew questions from Sen. Lamar Alexander.
“Contrary to HHS’s claims that a shoestring budget to launch Obamacare has forced it to go begging for private monies, records published at www.usaspending.gov show the agency has distributed more than $5 million grants and paid more than $15 million in contracts to implement [Obamacare],” the report said.
Interest in the issue was elevated, Judicial Watch explained, because “it would not represent Ms. Sebelius’s first ethical challenge during her tenure as an Obama administration official, having been found guilty in September 2012 of violating the Hatch Act in support of the president’s reelection campaign.”
Judicial Watch said the documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show that former White House staff member Anne Filipic, as president of Enroll America, a group “tasked with selling Obamacare,” also worked with key members of the U.S. House, which at the time of the vote was under the direct at that point of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to “exclude Republicans from congressional briefings.”
The report explains Filipic, a former deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement and deputy director at HHS, worked with staff member of the House Ways and Means Committee Debra Curtis to organize Obamacare congressional briefings, explicitly excluding Republican House members and their staffs.
For example, in an email dated Feb. 11, 2013, Curtis told Filipic, “They [House Democrat leadership] want to do another one next week while Congress is in recess that would be open all House Democratic Staff [emphasis added] to start getting folks up to speed.”
The next day, Curtis told Filipic: “I would guess that this would be a well-attended event with upward of 100 people in attendance. We’ll check IDs to be sure we’ve got all Dems coming as well.”
The issues all are linked because of the fundraising scandal.
“On May 10, 2013, the Washington Post broke the story that in ‘an unusual fundraising push’ Sebelius was pressuring health care industry officials regulated by HHS to make donations to Enroll America. On May 14, Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee sent a letter to Sebelius saying, ‘Our initial reaction is that this appears at best to be an inherent conflict of interest and at worst a potentially illegal augmentation of appropriation.’”
The next month, dozens of GOP senators told Sebelius, “Article I of the Constitution gives Congress alone the power of the purse. Your agency requested additional money to implement the exchanges, and Congress denied that request. You cannot evade Congress’ constitutional power of the purse through gifts or donations to an entity that appears to be ‘just an arm of the administration,’ as one health industry official described Filipic’s Enroll America in The Hill.”
That issue remains under investigation by Congress.
“Even as the ill-conceived Obamacare law continues to crumble, we are learning more and more about its massive cost to the American people and the shady politics attendant to its passage and implementation,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Our Freedom of Information Act investigation is ongoing, and these new documents raise more questions about the Sebelius shakedown operation to support Obamacare propaganda from Enroll America.”