President Obama’s health care law and the 2009 stimulus have provided money to groups pushing for tax increases on soda and price controls for other unhealthy foods, despite laws against taxpayer-funded lobbying of lawmakers.
Word of the campaigns, funded by grants from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Communities Putting Prevention to Work program (CPPW) provoked letters to the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) from the inspector general and House lawmakers.
“CPPW grants, funded through both the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, have been touted by the Obama Administration as initiatives designed to improve health outcomes through preventive measures,” a group of legislators on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, led by chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., wrote today to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, based on a letter from the inspector general (OIG).
“The OIG’s notice stated that CDC-provided information ‘appear to authorize, or even encourage, grantees to use grant funds for impermissible lobbying,” the investigators wrote. Anti-lobbying laws ban the use of federal funds to influence government officials on particular policies.
Despite that restriction, “CPPW grantees provide quarterly reports describing activities supported by the grant . . . [which] contain numerous activities that, on their face, may violate anti-lobbying provisions,” inspector general Daniel Levinson warned Sebelius last month.
The House members also press Sebelius about an HHS officials denial “that ‘education campaigns’ that support specific policy goals like soda taxes and zoning restrictions are prohibited under Federal anti-lobbying regulations.”
The grantees’ violations “may have originated from” HHS encouraging grantees to push for laws against unhealthy foods and products. “Some of the strategies listed [on the CDC wesbite] included zoning restrictions, banning displays and vending, eliminating transfats and reducing sodium through purchasing actions, labeling initiatives, restaurant standards, banning free samples and price discounts, and changing relative prices of healthy and unhealthy items,” Levinson noted.
The House members also press Sebelius about an HHS official’s denial “that ‘education campaigns’ that support specific policy goals like soda taxes and zoning restrictions are prohibited under Federal anti-lobbying regulations.”
Upton and the other legislators asked Sebelius to hand over documents pertaining to the grant applications and her department’s interpretation of the law and guidance on how to follow it.