Groups Ignore Centers for Disease Control Lobbying Regulations

David Williams

May 12, 2011

On February 19, 2009 President Obama signed the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, or more commonly known as the Stimulus Bill.  There was more than $800 billion in spending that was supposed to address unemployment and the economic dip that America had experienced.  What it did was create a myriad of new programs that have little to do with job creation and more to do with expanding government’s reach into society.

One program that symbolized that expansion was the Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) program funded by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  The program has four separate components which include “a Community Initiative, a States and Territories Policy and Environmental Change Initiative, a States Chronic Disease Self-Management Initiative, and a National Prevention Media and National Organizations Initiative.”  The program started out at $500 million and is expected to reach $2 billion per year with a total of $15 billion cumulative from 2010 to 2020.  While the expenditures are alarming, the grants and what the money is being used for should be even more troubling.

According to CDC’s website, there are strict restrictions on lobbying with CPPW grant money, “Applicants should be aware of restrictions on the use of HHS funds for lobbying of Federal or State legislative bodies. Under the provisions of 31 U.S.C. Section 1352, recipients (and their sub-tier contractors) are prohibited from using appropriated Federal funds (other than profits from a Federal contract) for lobbying congress or any Federal agency in connection with the award of a particular contract, grant, cooperative agreement, or loan.”

The website further explains that, “Any activity designed to influence action in regard to a particular piece of pending legislation would be considered ‘lobbying.’ That is lobbying for or against pending legislation, as well as indirect or ‘grass roots’ lobbying efforts by award recipients that are directed at inducing members of the public to contact their elected representatives at the Federal or State levels to urge support of, or opposition to, pending legislative proposals is prohibited. As a matter of policy, CDC extends the prohibitions to lobbying with respect to local legislation and local legislative bodies.”

It appears that CPPW funds are being used to lobby.  For example, CPPW recipient HealthConnectOne in Illinois states that one of their goals is to “introduce legislation in the State of Illinois to allow for reimbursement of breastfeeding support, including peer counselors.” 

In addition, there are questions surrounding the American Lung Association of New York’s $10,000 grant that they received from New York City’s $15.5 million grant.  The subgrant award description states that ALA New York is “responsible for education and advocacy activities with community members and policy makers to expand smoke free outdoor areas; reducing the number of tobacco retailers; and increasing the price of tobacco products.”  The Niagara Gazette also picked up on their lobbying activities when it reported on January 24, 2011 that “Last year the Lung Association in New York lobbied hard for the $1.60 per pack cigarette tax increase. The organization says the tax increase is expected to save 31,000 lives and prevent 23,000 kids from starting to smoke. The Association also urged state officials to maintain funding for the state’s tobacco control program.”

The CPPW program is yet another example of how the stimulus bill has failed taxpayers.  With an expanding budget and seemingly little oversight, there is no guarantee that billions of tax dollars won’t be used to lobby for issues that taxpayers may or may not agree with.