Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, center, accompanied by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, left, and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, speaks during a news conference at the HHS in Washington, Wednesday, April 10, 2013, to discuss President Barack Obama's fiscal 2014 for the Health Department. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
WASHINGTON, D.C. (WVLT) -- To Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' push to get funding from private organizations bears a strong resemblance to a massive scandal from a quarter-century ago - Iran-Contra.
“The analogy with Iran-Contra is strong,” said the Republican, who is the Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
“If the Department of Health and Human Services closely coordinates with Enroll America and other entities, then the analogy with Iran Contra is strong…Congress had said no, and the administration did it anyway. And that's precisely, it seems to me, what's happening here.”
According to Alexander's office, the senator sent a letter to Sebelius asking her to detail the relationship between her department and Enroll America. He also said he would like to know about who at HHS was involved in the fundraising, who they contacted, and what they asked for.
Department spokesman Jason Young confirms that Sebelius in recent weeks has asked various patient groups, churches and health care providers to support nonprofit groups like Enroll America that are leading the effort to implement President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.
The fundraising pitches were first reported by the Washington Post. Young says Sebelius made no fundraising request of drug companies, insurers or other entities regulated by her department.