Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is under fire for soliciting donations from health care companies to underwrite ObamaCare PR efforts to increase enrollment but you wouldn't know that if you only got your news from ABC and NBC or skipped Sunday's edition of CBS's Face the Nation. The Big Three (ABC, CBS, NBC) networks have effectively buried the scandal that was first broken by the Washington Post on May 10.
According to the Sarah Kliff story headlined "Budget request denied, Sebelius turns to health executives to finance Obamacare," the HHS Secretary for three months has "made multiple phone calls to health industry executives, community organizations and church groups" to pressure them to contribute to non-profit groups that are "working to enroll uninsured Americans and increase awareness of the law."
Sebelius's actions may have violated the law.
On May 16 a group Republican lawmakers sent a letter that called on the GAO to investigate Sebelius for possibly violating the Antideficiency Act which prohibits "augmenting congressional appropriations, and executive branch ethics laws." This isn't the first time Sebelius attempted to skirt the law to promote Barack Obama and his policies. Back in September the HHS secretary violated the Hatch Act when she made supportive remarks on behalf of Obama at an event in North Carolina.
However the outrageous conflict of interest scandal has yet to be mentioned by any of the anchors or reporters on ABC or NBC's evening or morning show programs. Republican Senator Mitch McConnell brought up the Sebelius issue to NBC’s David Gregory on the May 19 Meet the Press.
The only mention by network reporters came on the May 19 edition of CBS’s Face the Nation.
The following exchange with CBS's Schieffer, John Dickerson and the Washington Post's Dan Balz, represents the sum total of coverage by the Big Three networks on the brewing Sebelius solicitation scandal:
BOB SCHIEFFER: John, I'm going to ask you about something that we just flatly didn't get to this morning because there's so much else to talk about, and that is that the secretary of health and human services, Kathleen Sebelius, has been soliciting money from health organizations to promote the president's health care program. Would you explain what that's about?
JOHN DICKERSON, CBS Political Director: Well, that's because basically they don't have the -- two problems, one, the health care program needs to be implemented now. We know about its passage, but there is a real danger that, as it gets implemented, because Republicans have resisted it at the state level, and also in the federal budget, there's not enough money for it, so she's looking for money to find a way to implement this program.
Well, the problem is, when you start going to companies that have an interest in the implementation of the program, or that's the charge from Republicans, then you are -- you`ve got yourself a problem there because they can -- they can seek advantage from the government by helping the government out.
And so this is another instance in which -- conservatives have linked all of these scandals, and the White House will say, "Oh, well, this is just their effort to keep the scandals in the news and there`s no real linkage," but conservatives make this argument that, when you have a big program like the Affordable Care Act, you have a monstrous institution like the IRS, that big government, left to its own devices, goes off and does crazy things like this and that this is an argument for smaller government, whether you're talking about the affordable health care act or whether you're talking about the IRS.
SCHIEFFER: But, Dan, isn't that a conflict of interests if health insurance people start contributing money to promote the president`s health care plan?
DAN BALZ, WASHINGTON POST: Well, it may be, it may well be, and Senator Alexander from Tennessee, a Republican, is on a tear on this and is trying to find out exactly what she is doing and whether it violates any law.
I mean, I think -- I mean, to the point that John made, I mean, this issue of does government work or not -- I mean, the president has always said it`s not an issue of big government or small government; it`s a question of can our administration show people that government can be smart and effective.
And on this weekend you have four of the most important agencies -- and five if you include HHS – under a cloud. You have the Justice Department, the State Department, the Pentagon over sexual assaults, and Treasury over the IRS, and HHS on the Affordable Care Act, all with questions about legality, competence, managerial strength.
So people look at the government and say, under this president the government is not working. People can decide who is at fault on that, but I don`t think there`s any question that it's not working right now.
-- Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow Geoffrey Dickens on Twitter.