By David Morgan
WASHINGTON | Tue May 21, 2013 4:06am EDT
(Reuters) - With the White House already reeling from three major controversies, some Republican lawmakers are zeroing in on what they perceive is another possible scandal tied to President Barack Obama's landmark health reform law just as it nears implementation.
On top of the troubles the administration is facing over its handling of the attack on the Benghazi mission, the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups, and the Justice Department's seizure of Associated Press phone records, Republicans hope to target Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
They are questioning her soliciting of funds on behalf of a non-profit group, called Enroll America, from two private entities, a practice which if not unprecedented is at the very least unusual. Federal law bars officials from soliciting any organization or individual with whom they do business or regulate.
Enroll America is run by the president's former campaign backers to do something Congress refused to fund: sell "Obamacare" to the public.
An HHS statement last week said that since March Sebelius solicited financial donations for Enroll America from H&R Block Inc, the tax preparation company, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a philanthropic entity devoted to public health issues. Asked Monday for a list of all solicitations before or after March, an HHS spokesman referred Reuters to the department's original statement.
Neither H&R Block nor the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation are regulated by HHS, the department's spokesman said, so there was nothing improper or illegal about soliciting them.
Enroll America is intended to serve as the private sector flagship for a massive public outreach campaign intended to get millions of uninsured Americans to sign up for subsidized insurance coverage through new online marketplaces, or exchanges, that will begin open enrollment on October 1.
H&R Block said it has made no commitment to Enroll America. "We received a phone call from the Secretary during which the Secretary discussed supporting Enroll America," the company said in a statement. "While we took her suggestion under consideration, we have made no commitment," it said.