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Grassley Sends Letter to Sebelius; Seeks Explanation, Transparency on Gruber

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) today sent a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius in reference to Jonathan Gruber’s failure to disclose his financial relationship with the Obama administration when he was testifying before the Senate Finance Committee. It appears that, at the time, Sen. Grassley was unaware Gruber had been given a lucrative, sole source contract by the HHS to do analysis of the “President’s health reform proposal.”

The letter reads:

The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius
Secretary
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20201

Dear Secretary Sebelius:

As the senior senator from Iowa and Ranking Member of the United States
Committee on Finance (Committee), I have a duty to conduct oversight of the executive branch, including the activities of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS or the Department). This duty includes monitoring HHS activities and conducting oversight to ensure that taxpayer dollars are used appropriately.

I write concerning Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Jonathan Gruber’s relationships with HHS. Recent reports state that Professor Gruber received nearly $400,000 from HHS in exchange for his providing assistance in evaluating Congress’s various health care reform proposals. During this same time, he was active in promoting and defending the Administration’s preferred health care policies both before Congress and in the media. This includes Dr. Gruber’s participation in the Committee’s May 12, 2009, Roundtable Discussion entitled “Financing Comprehensive Health Care Reform.” On occasions such as this one, it appears that Professor Gruber advanced the Administration’s agenda without disclosing the fact that he was receiving federal remuneration.

For years, I have advocated for transparency in the operation of government and in the use of taxpayer dollars. While it is questionable for Professor Gruber to advocate Administration positions in the media without disclosing his financial ties to the Administration, I am especially concerned by his advocacy before the United States Congress. When an academic leader comes before Congress to advocate a position, Congress should have confidence that he or she is independent and not being paid to assist the Administration. In this case, it appears that neither Professor Gruber nor the Department found it worth informing Congress of his substantial ties in advance of, or any time after, his testimony.

[Text of full letter after the jump]

Senator Mike Enzi wrote to you yesterday requesting information concerning Professor Gruber’s relationship with the Department. Today, I write to ask that you require any individuals under contract with your Department to disclose that fact publicly to the Committee prior to any testimony before Congress. I also request that you provide a full list of individuals who are currently under contract, or have been under contract at any point within the past year, to assist the Department in any aspect of the health care reform process.

As I am sure you will agree, this is the clearest way of ensuring full transparency and preventing future questions about taxpayer funds and those advocating positions before Congress. If the health care debate has shown us anything, it is that our government can greatly benefit from more openness and transparency.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. I request that your agency provide a response by no later than February 5, 2010. []

Sincerely,
Charles E. Grassley
Ranking Member

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Grassley Sends Letter to Sebelius; Seeks Explanation, Transparency on Gruber

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) today sent a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius in reference to Jonathan Gruber’s failure to disclose his financial relationship with the Obama administration when he was testifying before the Senate Finance Committee. It appears that, at the time, Sen. Grassley was unaware Gruber had been given a lucrative, sole source contract by the HHS to do analysis of the “President’s health reform proposal.”

The letter reads:

The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius
Secretary
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20201

Dear Secretary Sebelius:

As the senior senator from Iowa and Ranking Member of the United States
Committee on Finance (Committee), I have a duty to conduct oversight of the executive branch, including the activities of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS or the Department). This duty includes monitoring HHS activities and conducting oversight to ensure that taxpayer dollars are used appropriately.

I write concerning Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Jonathan Gruber’s relationships with HHS. Recent reports state that Professor Gruber received nearly $400,000 from HHS in exchange for his providing assistance in evaluating Congress’s various health care reform proposals. During this same time, he was active in promoting and defending the Administration’s preferred health care policies both before Congress and in the media. This includes Dr. Gruber’s participation in the Committee’s May 12, 2009, Roundtable Discussion entitled “Financing Comprehensive Health Care Reform.” On occasions such as this one, it appears that Professor Gruber advanced the Administration’s agenda without disclosing the fact that he was receiving federal remuneration.

For years, I have advocated for transparency in the operation of government and in the use of taxpayer dollars. While it is questionable for Professor Gruber to advocate Administration positions in the media without disclosing his financial ties to the Administration, I am especially concerned by his advocacy before the United States Congress. When an academic leader comes before Congress to advocate a position, Congress should have confidence that he or she is independent and not being paid to assist the Administration. In this case, it appears that neither Professor Gruber nor the Department found it worth informing Congress of his substantial ties in advance of, or any time after, his testimony.

Senator Mike Enzi wrote to you yesterday requesting information concerning Professor Gruber’s relationship with the Department. Today, I write to ask that you require any individuals under contract with your Department to disclose that fact publicly to the Committee prior to any testimony before Congress. I also request that you provide a full list of individuals who are currently under contract, or have been under contract at any point within the past year, to assist the Department in any aspect of the health care reform process.

As I am sure you will agree, this is the clearest way of ensuring full transparency and preventing future questions about taxpayer funds and those advocating positions before Congress. If the health care debate has shown us anything, it is that our government can greatly benefit from more openness and transparency.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. I request that your agency provide a response by no later than February 5, 2010. []

Sincerely,
Charles E. Grassley
Ranking Member

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at http://pendinghorizon.com