Issa to Sebelius: Telling Contractors Not to Cooperate With Congress is a Criminal Offense
Today, in response to attempts by the Department of Health and Human Services to prohibit contractors working on HealthCare.gov from cooperating with congressional investigators, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., sent a letter to Department Secretary Kathleen Sebelius calling for an end to HHS’s obstruction of the Committee’s investigation.
“The Department’s hostility toward questions from Congress and the media about the implementation of ObamaCare is well known,” Chairman Issa writes. “The Department’s most recent effort to stonewall, however, has morphed from mere obstinacy into criminal obstruction of a congressional investigation.”
On December 6, 2013, HHS notified Creative Computing Solutions, Inc. that they were contractually prohibited from providing documents to third parties and stated, “If you receive a request for this information from Congress, CMS will respond directly to the requestor[.]” The letter came after the Committee contacted 11 of the top contractors working on HealthCare.gov for more information on the website.
“Obstructing a Congressional investigation is a crime,” Chairman Issa states. “The federal obstruction laws reflect the fact that Congress’ right of access to information is constitutionally based and critical to the integrity and effectiveness of our oversight and investigative activities. For that reason, it is widely understood that private citizens and companies cannot contract away their duty to comply with a congressional request for documents.
“Furthermore, the Department’s instruction to CCSI and other contractors not to respond to congressional document requests runs afoul of a federal statute that prohibits interfering with an employees’ right to furnish information to Congress,” Issa continues. “Under that statute, any effort to enforce a contract that prevents a federal employee—or in this case, a contractor—from communicating with Congress is unlawful.
“It is my expectation that you and your staff will have no further communication with the contractors in question regarding the Committee’s requests for documents and information,” Issa continues. “I remind you that an October 30, 2013, subpoena issued to you—which remains in effect—would capture the information that I requested from contractors.”
You can read the complete letter to Secretary Sebelius here.