Grant Recipients Continue to Break Law and Lobby With Taxpayer Funds

David Williams

July 17, 2012

It’s bad enough when Washington spends your hard earned tax dollars on duplicative, ineffective and/or unnecessary programs.  It’s even worse day when we learn that our money is being used to lobby for laws or regulations that will restrict consumer choice and promote nanny state policies that infringe on our freedoms.  Unfortunately, that’s what appears to be occurring thanks to a Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) grant program funded by the 2009 stimulus bill.  The eye-catching lead sentence in an article from The Hill describes the matter succinctly: “Federal healthcare grants may have been illegally used for political lobbying.”  

As The Hill recently reported, Daniel Levinson, the Department of Health and Human Service’s Inspector General (IG) said nearly the exact same thing last week.  The Hill obtained an “early alert” letter Levinson sent to CDC Director Thomas Friedman.  In his correspondence, Levinson wrote that some documents and information the CDC provided to grant recipients “appear to authorize, or even encourage, grantees to use grant funds for impermissible lobbying.”  And as disconcerting as this revelation is, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. In fact for well over a year, TPA has worked to bring more attention to this flagrant misuse of taxpayer money by writing letters to Congress and many blogs on this issue. 

Typically – and by that I mean, it’s the law – when private organizations receive federal grants they are forbidden from using those federal funds for political lobbying.  However as the IG’s initial findings explain, the CDC grants not only allowed political activity, it was encouraged as a condition necessary to meet the terms of the grant.

Previous TPA blogs have revealed examples of this practice in action.

Here are two examples:

  • “Despite the fact that the program is restricted from financing lobbying activities, grant money was awarded to the state health department in Wisconsin to hire lobbyists to push a ‘wellness’ agenda at the local level.”
  • “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.’” 

Regardless of what the administration may say to the contrary, there’s no way around it. These examples and others demonstrate your tax dollars are being used to actively and aggressively lobby.

The clear message is that it’s permissible to lobby with federal dollars as long as the lobbyists support and urge adoption of policies the administration backs.  Today it’s common knowledge that Obama’s promise that the 2009 stimulus bill would create jobs hasn’t played out.  But in fairness, the way these CDC grants are being carried out it suggests that the stimulus did give more business to a particular group – just one that was never hurting for work – lobbyists.

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