Sen. Pat Toomey has queried the Obama administration about two grave abuses of abuses of power committed during its watch.
A letter sent to the President notes that the in 2010 IRS "specialists had been asked to be on the lookout for Tea Party
applications, and the IRS Determinations Unit had begun searching its
database for applications with 'Tea Party,' 'Patriots,' or '9/12' in the
and that this practice was "well-known" in the agency.
He has also sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius regarding reports that she solicited funds from health care executives to assist with the implementation of the president's health law.
"This appears at best to be an inherent conflict of interest and, at worst, a potentially illegal augmentation of appropriation," he said.
Here is Toomey's letter to President Obama:Dear Mr. President:
We are writing to express our grave concerns and deep disappointment about the revelations in a report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had specifically targeted certain organizations for extra scrutiny as part of their approval review of applications for tax-exempt 501(c)(4) status. This appears to be a wholly inappropriate action that threatens to silence political dissent and brings partisan politics into what used to be a nonpartisan, unbiased and fact-based review process. The public's confidence in the IRS relies on fair and apolitical application of the law. Actions such as these undermine taxpayers' ability to trust its government to fairly implement the law.
According to information given to Congress in a timeline provided by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), in early 2010 "specialists had been asked to be on the lookout for Tea Party applications, and the IRS Determinations Unit had begun searching its database for applications with 'Tea Party,' 'Patriots,' or '9/12' in the organization's name." The report goes on to state that "By June 2011, some IRS specialists were probing applications using the following criteria to identify tea-party cases, according to the Treasury inspector general findings: "'Tea Party,' 'Patriots' or '9/12 Project' is referenced in the case file; issues include government spending, government debt or taxes; education of the public by advocacy/lobbying to 'make America a better place to live'; statements in the case file criticize how the country is being run."
We are deeply disturbed that agents of the government were directed to give greater scrutiny to groups engaged in conduct questioning the actions of their government. This type of purely political scrutiny being conducted by an Executive Branch Agency is yet another completely inexcusable attempt to chill the speech of political opponents and those who would question their government, consistent with a broader pattern of intimidation by arms of your administration to silence political dissent.
These disclosures are even more unsettling as they contradict prior statements made by representatives of the Administration on this matter. In response to questions raised in 2012 on this issue by Republican Senators, Steven T. Miller, the Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement at the IRS, specifically (and falsely) stated that there was an unbiased, technical screening process used to determine which applications for 501(c)(4) organizations merited further review. In two separate letters to Finance Committee Ranking Member Orin Hatch, Mr. Miller failed to note that explicitly political screens were used in reviewing applications, despite the fact the practice was apparently well known within the IRS as early as 2010.
Given these strong and clear statements by the Administration in 2012 that no such targeted review or specified politically motivated criteria existed, these revelations raise serious questions about the entire application review process, and the controls in place at the IRS to stop this sort of political interference once and for all. According to TIGTA these actions took place more than two years ago, yet without this information becoming public, there is no evidence that your administration would have done anything to make sure these abuses were brought to light and dealt with in a transparent way.
The American people deserve to know what actions will be taken to ensure those who made these policy decisions at the IRS are being held fully accountable and more importantly what is being done to ensure that this kind of raw partisanship is fully eliminated from these critically important non-partisan government functions. As such, we demand that your Administration comply with all requests related to Congressional inquiries without any delay, including making available all IRS employees involved in designing and implementing these prohibited political screening, so that the public has a full accounting of these actions. It is imperative that the Administration be fully forthcoming to ensure that we begin to restore the confidence of our fellow citizens after this blatant violation of their trust. We look forward to working on this critical issue with the Administration's full cooperation.
Here is Toomey's letter to Secretary Sebelius:
Dear Secretary Sebelius:
As the Republican Members of the Senate
Committee on Finance, one of the key committees of jurisdiction over
health care issues, we were troubled by the news reports concerning your
interactions with health care industry executives asking for donations
of money to assist with funding for enrollment efforts related to the
health care insurance exchanges. 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.
These calls raise several important issues.
First, soliciting funds from the very companies or organizations that
the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regulates could be a
serious conflict of interest. Companies and organizations should never
be pressured for money because it sends the message that contributions
are necessary to secure favorable regulatory decisions-creating a "pay
to play" environment-or to avoid regulatory reprisals. This is even more
pronounced in this instance because the individuals that you were
allegedly contacting to solicit donations head up the same entities who
may have bid to participate in the marketplace exchanges.
Secondly, the appropriations process was
designed by the Constitution to assure that only Congress, an elected
body, sets the amount of funds that can be spent to implement a given
law. Congress appropriated a certain amount of funds for use by HHS to
implement the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
Circumventing the appropriations process to raise additional funds could
be a serious violation of appropriations law.
Finally, the manner in which Congress
learned about these actions, through the press, is also troubling. One
of the continued issues that has been raised to HHS from this Committee
over the past three years has been the lack of transparency from HHS to
Congress about what actions are being taken, and when, with respect to
implementation of PPACA. This is yet another example of the
Administration initiating actions without consulting with or informing
Congress ahead of time.
To help us better understand this issue, please provide us with answers to the following questions:
1. What legal authority permits HHS employees to solicit donations from non-government entities for PPACA implementation?
2. Who within HHS was involved in making the decision to contact private entities for donations?
3. Was the Office of General Counsel for HHS consulted and, if so, what guidance did they provide governing these interactions?
Besides Secretary Sebelius, have any other HHS employees solicited
donations in their official capacity as a federal employee?
5. How much money has been raised by HHS for the implementation of PPACA through donations?
a. Is the money coming directly to HHS or is it going elsewhere?
b. If to HHS, in which account(s) were the funds deposited?
c. What agency, individual, or entity has fiduciary authority over the funds?
d. Of the donated funds, how much has been spent by HHS or other entities to date?
e. Who has donated funds?
f. If funds are donated, do the donators have the right to say which programs the funding goes toward?
6. How much money has been raised by HHS employees for other entities supporting enrollment under PPACA?
7. Have HHS employees solicited donations on behalf of any nonprofit organization? If so, which one(s) and how much
8. How many federally funded work hours were used by Secretary Sebelius and other HHS employees to solicit donations?
What assurances do organizations and companies that elected not to
donate funds have that HHS would not retaliate against them in future
regulatory or contracting actions?
10. Conversely, what measures has
HHS taken to be sure that it has not favored organizations that have
donated funds? What audit or oversight mechanisms are in place to
ensure that the list of those who have provided funds is not seen by the
contracting or program employees making decisions about contract awards
and/or other determinations regarding participation in the exchanges?
We appreciate your timely response to this
request and your full cooperation in providing this information by no
later than June 7, 2013.