Earlier this month, President Obama traveled to California to tout the state’s progress implementing ObamaCare as a model; but a look behind the curtain finds it is a model for corruption and cronyism.
While other states that have accepted ObamaCare have specifically stated that their health care exchanges are covered by open-records laws, California is purposefully hiding how hundreds of millions in taxpayer money is being spent. When the California legislature created the agency to oversee its creation of a government health care exchange, it included a provision that would conceal spending on the contractors from public disclosure and scrutiny for one year. The California code now reads, “Except for the portion of a contract that contains the rates of payment, contracts entered into pursuant to this title shall be open to inspection one year after their effective dates.”
The legislature has allocated nearly $1 billion to implement the exchange, with $458 million to be allocated to vendors by the end of 2014. These vendors will include law firms (many with connections to the highest level of California government); salaries for bureaucrats, consultants and public relations advisors; and most troubling, the pockets of liberal groups. In liberal speak, that’s called “outreach.”
Terry Francke, head of California Aware, an organization working to ensure public access to government meetings and information, believes the law violates the state’s constitutional requirement that explicit exclusions from the open record law must be “necessary” to protect “powers and obligations to negotiate on behalf of the public.” With the legislature providing no supporting evidence of the need to keep their contracts secret, Mr. Francke asked, “Why couldn’t the exchange do its job without this secrecy? What’s the worst that could happen?”
We now know. The first round of grants have been awarded, and many of them were given directly to the treasuries of liberal political groups that have nothing to do with health care. The NAACP received $600,000 for canvassing. The AFL-CIO got $1 million to go door-to-door. And another union, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), got $2 million for a phone campaign. Sprinkle in the fact that the legislature also required registration to be a function of the health care exchange, and we have all the elements of a massive political scandal — all paid for by the taxpayers.
Led by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), five United States Senators, all members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, are asking the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to investigate. “We see no reason why a state that has been awarded nearly $910 million in federal taxpayer dollars should not disclose how that money is being spent once a contract is finalized,” they wrote in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
California’s effort to conceal its ObamaCare contracts may be problematic, but the real scandal appears to be the cronyism and corruption inherent when government hands out half a billion dollars to their friends, benefactors, and political allies.
Photo credit: terrellaftermath