Lately there has been plenty of criticism from the left on the influence of outside groups and money on our political system. However, when it comes to achieving their own goals, it appears that the White House does not play by its own rules. Earlier this month, the Administration attempted to pivot the national discussion by focusing on the gender pay gap, only to have the effort backfire after it was shown that the White House itself was guilty of pay disparities between genders. The White House later explained the difference was due to things like different career choices, hours worked, and tenure in the position – largely the same rationale offered by the private sector employers they criticized.
This week, the New York Times reported on a new study from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) regarding the administration’s use of influence to solicit funds from outside groups in order to promote their signature law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary, “contacted the chief executive officers of five organizations to solicit support for one outside entity, Enroll America,” which ran a national campaign to help people sign up for insurance, the report said. Ms. Sebelius has announced that she plans to leave her post.
According to GAO, seeking additional funds to advertise the ACA, White House officials urged companies to provide monetary and non-monetary support to Enroll America, even when these same companies were subject to regulation by the Department of Health and Human Services.
However, the report says a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation employee told investigators of a 2012 conversation in which a White House official “indicated a hope that R.W.J.F. would provide a significant financial contribution to support” Enroll America.
Acts like these illustrate the legitimacy problem plaguing a White House that refuses to lead by example. As the saying goes, what is good for the goose ought to be good for the gander. While there is room for debate on the appropriate influence outside groups should play in politics, there is no justification for government abuse of power for political gain. Such abuse is not appropriate conduct for our elected or appointed officials and creates a double standard for those with power and those without.