The American people do not support Obamacare. This much we know. So I’m willing to bet they’re going to be furious when they learn that the Obama Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) wants to spend as much as $200 million on a propaganda campaign to convince them they’re wrong about the president’s socialist health care overhaul.
This week we obtained documents from HHS that provide new details on a massive, taxpayer-funded, multimedia campaign designed to promote the Affordable Health Care Act (also known as Obamacare) and other HHS policy initiatives (such as the anti-obesity — or food control — campaign that is a vanity project of Michelle Obama). According to the records, which we obtained through a March 23, 2011, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, the total cost of this campaign, which notably targets Obama’s electoral coalition, could reach as much as $200 million over the next five years!
The following are highlights from the documents, which you can read in full here:
- An April 27, 2010, Department of Health and Human Services Acquisition Plan entitled “National Multimedia & Education Campaign & Grassroots Outreach,” details a comprehensive five-year communications program covering a variety of HHS policy initiatives, including “health care reform.”
- According to a section of the Acquisition Plan entitled, “Independent Government Cost Estimate,” the Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs (ASPA) states: “ASPA is unable to provide a definitive government cost estimate. Campaigns vary is [sic] size and scope. Some campaigns involve radio, some TV, and some print. Other campaigns may involve all of those avenues plus on ground events, website, bus tours, etc.” However, “ASPA is letting this contract in order [to] produce three to four campaigns per year through the life-cycle of the contract. We are requesting a contract with a $200,000,000 maximum.”
- According to a subsequent March 14, 2011, contract included among the documents, HHS hired The Ogilvy Group “to provide services to design, develop, and execute a multiplatform educational media campaign to promote the new website Healthcare.gov, including the new Spanish language version of the website.” The total amount of the contract awarded was: $3,998,928.
- The Ogilvy contract “task order” describes the purpose of the Healthcare.gov website: “To accompany such a monumental piece of legislation [The Affordable Health Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare], the law charged the Department of Health and Human Services with the creation of a website to aide [sic] Americans about the health insurance coverage options available to them.” (U.S. Senator Charles Grassley has deemed the HHS online program “state-sponsored propaganda.”)
- The Ogilvy contract also describes the “audiences” that will receive “targeted messaging” during the campaign: “Hispanic Americans, African Americans, Young People, Women/Mothers,” all considered key target demographics for the Obama reelection campaign.
- According to the Ogilvy contract, HHS sought to receive “media training” in the following areas, among others: “controlling your message,” “handling hostile interviews,” “artful repetition,” “identifying loaded questions” and “being persuasive.”
And now for the really creepy part…
Here’s how the HHS describes the key to success for this campaign: “Health and program-related messages are processed by the target audience according to a particular reality, which he or she experiences. Attitudes, feelings, values, needs, desires, behaviors and beliefs all play a part in the individual’s decision to accept information and make a behavioral change. It is by understanding the importance of these characteristics that health and program-related messages can be targeted to the beneficiary in effective ways.”
So, in other words, the Obama administration is paying hired guns a lot of your money to manipulate you into “accepting” the Obama way and “changing” your behavior.
That’s certainly what HHS was trying to do with a series of three Medicare television advertisements featuring actor Andy Griffith. As Judicial Watch uncovered through FOIA, the Obama Administration spent $3,184,000 in taxpayer funds to produce and air the advertisements on national television in September and October 2010.
The administration said it was merely trying to “educate” Medicare beneficiaries, caregivers, and family members “about forthcoming changes to Medicare as a result of the Affordable Care Act.” However, according toFactCheck.org, a project of the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, the advertisements intentionally misinformed the American people.
There was nothing “educational” about the Griffith ads. And there is nothing “educational” about this $200 million multimedia Obamacare propaganda campaign. These records prove the administration is using taxpayer dollars to manipulate public opinion, while, at the same time, getting a leg-up in the reelection campaign by targeting the Obama electoral coalition with positive but misleading messages about the president’s “signature policy initiative.”
This Big Brother campaign is most certainly underhanded, potentially unlawful, and it must be stopped. If Congress is looking for a place to trim the deficit, this is a good place to start.
Judicial Watch Challenges New Jersey’s County College of Morris on Unlawful Tuition Policy for Illegal Aliens
Judicial Watch continued its aggressive, nationwide campaign against illegal alien sanctuary policies this week. On Monday, I sent a letter to the Chairman of the Board of Trustees for New Jersey’s County College of Morris (CCM) challenging the school’s policy of providing discounted tuition for “undocumented” aliens.
And I got a quick response, too. CCM informed Judicial Watch that it will reevaluate its illegal alien tuition policy on April 20, 2011. (When word comes down I’ll be sure to give you an update in this space.)
Here’s the bottom line, as I noted in my letter — illegal aliens are ineligible for state and local public benefits, such as discounted tuition, under federal law:
There is no way to reconcile CCM’s policy with federal law. The policy provides a public benefit to individuals who are clearly ineligible for benefits [under federal law], and New Jersey has not authorized the provision of such benefits…CCM may not ignore federal laws when those laws are not consistent with its own policy preferences. We hope that CCM will reevaluate its new policy and conform it to the requirements of federal law.
Judicial Watch was tipped off to CCM’s illegal policy by the February 18, 2011, edition ofThe New Jersey Star-Ledger:
For the first time in nearly a decade, illegal immigrants will be allowed to take classes at the County College of Morris in a policy change that is drawing praise from some education officials and sharp criticism from immigration policy activists.
The trustees at the Randolph-based college voted 7-1 earlier this week to reverse a rule barring undocumented students, school officials said. Starting this summer, the public two-year college will be one of the first schools in New Jersey to openly acknowledge it is enrolling illegal immigrants and allowing them to pay the same tuition rate as other county residents.
(Prior to the policy change CCM had barred illegal aliens from admission to the school.)
The article piqued the interest of our lawyers and investigators, who obtained a copy of the new CCM admissions policy. And sure enough, it clearly states that any illegal alien who graduated from an American high school (or possesses a GED equivalent), is under the age of 35, and has lived in the U.S. for five consecutive years, is eligible for admission. The policy further stipulates that illegal alien students may pay a discounted in-county tuition rate!
Now, as I said earlier, federal law states that unlawfully present aliens generally are ineligible for state or local public benefits, including postsecondary education benefits, such as reduced tuition, unless a state has enacted a law affirmatively providing for such eligibility. The State of New Jersey has enacted no such law. CCM simply decided to act on its own without proper legal authority.
Obviously, we can’t have colleges and universities ignoring federal law because they may have sympathies for a certain student population. And it is our hope that after considering the federal statutes at issue that the Board of Trustees will bring its tuition policy in line with federal law when it “reevaluates” that policy next week.
Our challenge to CCM is not the first attempt we have made to stop institutions of higher education from doling out perks to illegal aliens. (And it won’t be the last, as we are considering similar challenges in other states, including Utah and California.) You may recall that on January 20, 2011, Judicial Watch filed a taxpayer lawsuit against the Board of Trustees of Maryland’s Montgomery College for unlawfully allowing discounted “in county” tuition rates for students who graduate from Montgomery County public high schools, regardless of their place of residency or immigration status.
The lawsuit argued that Montgomery College’s tuition policy violates both Maryland and federal law and places a substantial financial burden on Montgomery County taxpayers, who subsidize the cost of students attending the community college. Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit on behalf of Montgomery County taxpayers Michael Lee Philips, Patricia Fenati and David Drake in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County.
In an attempt to moot the legal challenge, the Maryland legislature passed legislationthis week authorizing illegal aliens to obtain taxpayer-funded in-state tuition benefits. (Liberals run the Maryland State Legislature so this did not come is a big surprise.) The good news is that this affront to the rule of law may be subject to a voter referendum.
I expect that regular Maryland voters may wonder why their state politicians (and the radical illegal alien advocates behind them) would waste tax dollars this way. As I wrote the Washington Post:
[T]o use millions in tax dollars to provide these individuals tuition benefits not available to lawful U.S. residents (including legal immigrants) who live outside Maryland is a waste of limited resources.
If the rule of law means anything, states will not use tax money to provide aid and comfort to those who reside here in knowing violation of the law. And if the goal of Maryland legislators is to help individuals violate federal and state laws regarding illegal immigration, there are cheaper ways to do it.
You may have noticed that Judicial Watch tries to leave no stone unturned when it comes to confronting sanctuary cities and states that roll out the welcome mat for illegal aliens (with the full endorsement of the Obama administration.) Whether it is taxpayer cash for college tuition for illegal aliens, taxpayer-funded day labor sites, or lax illegal alien law enforcement policies, we confront each challenge aggressively. If you support our efforts in this regard, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to Judicial Watch.
Your Judicial Watch is the first and last line of defense against the Obama administration’s attempts to undermine illegal immigration law. And we appreciate your support.
Congress Ethics Mess: What’s the Hold Up on the Maxine Waters Investigation?
As you may recall, last year Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) landed on Judicial Watch’s “Washington’s Ten Most Wanted Corrupt Politicians,” and for good reason. Waters (and her partner in crime, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA)) helped secure a TARP grant for the failing Massachusetts bank OneUnited — a bank in which her husband had a significant investment. (Michelle Malkin reports that Waters’ husband, Sidney Williams held a $350,000 stake in OneUnited as recently as June 2008.)
Could the conflict of interest be any more egregious?
We didn’t think so. And for a while it appeared the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct (a.k.a. The House Ethics Committee) agreed. The Committee announced last fall there would be a speedy trial to consider the charges against Waters. And, on the heels of the massive investigation and very public trial of Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), there was reason to be somewhat optimistic that Waters would be held accountable.
That is until House Ethics Committee Chairman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) started meddling in the process. Not only did Lofgren fail to issue subpoenas for records related to the scandal, but she also delayed the ethics committee hearing after doing everything in her power to undermine the professional committee staff leading the investigation. And, as if that were not enough, Lofgren then improperly fired two attorneys working on the investigation.
Now the Waters investigation is stuck in the mud. A spokesman for House Ethics Committee Chairman Rep. Joe Bonner (R-AL), who has slammed Lofgren on more than one occasion for mishandling the investigation, declined to comment on when a hearing would be rescheduled. (It looks to me as if Lofgren was trying to help Waters co-conspirator Barney Frank as much as Waters.)
Meanwhile, The Washington Post recently highlighted documents from the FDIC that provide new details on something Judicial Watch reported last year — OneUnited Bank was in deplorable financial shape at the time of the TARP grant (partially because of aquestionable $50 million investment in the sinking ship that was Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac), and would never have received government assistance without the intervention of Waters and Frank:
A decision in late 2008 by top officials of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to help a politically connected bank in Boston left federal bank examiners there angry enough that some called it a “travesty of justice,” according to internal e-mails obtained by The Washington Post.
The chairman of OneUnited Bank, a friend of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), had rendered it insolvent through lavish spending and bad investments, according to the examiners’ written accounts. But by the end of that year, after Waters arranged a key Treasury Department meeting for the bank, it had won a bailout loan and a unique exemption from the FDIC’s accounting rules.
“There are some really good people expressing very strong opinions regarding what they view as a travesty of justice regarding the special treatment this institution is receiving,” acting regional director John M. Lane warned in a March 2009 e-mail to Christopher J. Spoth, a senior FDIC consumer protection official.
(As reported in the January 22, 2009, edition of the Wall Street Journal, the Treasury Department indicated it would only provide bailout funds to healthy banks to jump-start lending.)
A travesty of justice. That’s a perfect description not only for the OneUnited cash infusion, but also the manner in which the Waters House ethics “investigation” has “proceeded.”
Judicial Watch has been on top of the OneUnited scandal ever since it first broke. In fact, we sued the Treasury Department for documents and unearthed some remarkable finds that implicate both Frank and Waters. For example, JW learned that the unnamed “federal regulator” Frank says he called regarding the $12 million TARP grant for OneUnited was none other than former Treasury Secretary Henry “Hank” Paulson.
And then there was this explosive January 13, 2009, email from Brookly McLaughlin, the Treasury Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, who expressed shock at Waters’ apparent conflict of interest regarding OneUnited:
Further to email below, WSJ [Wall Street Journal] tells me: …Apparently this bank is the only one that has gotten money through section 103-6 of the EESA law. And Maxine Waters’ husband is on the board of the bank. ??????
So, in sum, the House Ethics Committee has all the evidence it needs to hold Maxine Waters to account on the OneUnited scandal. But Waters allies are corrupting the Ethics Committee at this point. I might suggest that the new Republican leadership clean up this mess. Frankly, the longer it goes on, the easier it is to conclude that the Republicans running the House aren’t bothered by a dysfunctional Ethics Committee.
Judicial Watch is a non-partisan, educational foundation organized under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue code. Judicial Watch is dedicated to fighting government and judicial corruption and promoting a return to ethics and morality in our nation’s public life. To make a tax-deductible contribution in support of our efforts, click here.
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