Rapid Response: ACA Contractor Contradicts Issa Account of Briefing
At today’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Cheryl Campbell, a Senior Vice President at website contractor CGI Federal, refuted claims by House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa that CGI officials informed Committee staff at a briefing last week that the Administration ordered changes to the ACA website for political reasons in order to “mask the ‘sticker shock’ of ObamaCare to the American people.”
Confirming that CGI officials met with Issa’s staff last week, Ms. Campbell testified that CGI officials did not make these statements to Issa’s staff and that a letter issued by Issa on Tuesday mischaracterized the briefing. She testified that she is not aware of any decisions made by the White House regarding the website and that she is aware of no political motivation for changes to the website. Below is an exchange Ms. Campbell had with Rep. G.K. Butterfield:
REP. BUTTERFIELD: Let me ask you this directly. Are Mr. Issa’s allegations correct? Did the White House ever order your company for political reasons to mask the sticker shock of Obamacare by disabling this anonymous shopper function?
MS. CAMPBELL: So, let me answer two things. One, I don’t believe that members of CGI actually made those statements directly in that manner. I think they may have been taken out of context, but I think I’d have to get back with confirmation of that. And, to my knowledge, no, the White House has not given us direct instructions.
REP. BUTTERFIELD: I would like to get that information from you. It’s a very serious allegation for the Chairman of an Oversight Committee to make such a callous accusation. Based on the meeting with your company last week, Mr. Issa’s letter wrote that, “evidence is mounting that political motivations motivated this decision.” Do you have any evidence, and you just alluded to it, do you have any evidence that political considerations motivated this decision?
MS. CAMPBELL: I’m not privy to anything of that sort.
REP. BUTTERFIELD: Do you have any knowledge of any White House role in specific decisions relating to the web site?
MS. CAMPBELL: Not to my knowledge.
REP. BUTTERFIELD: And are you aware of any political intervention by this White House relating to your work on Healthcare.gov?
MS. CAMPBELL: I am not.
On Tuesday, Ranking Member Elijah Cummings and Congressman Gerry Connolly sent their own letter to Issa noting that their staffs also attended the meeting with CGI last week and objecting strongly to Issa’s mischaracterization of that meeting. The Members wrote in part:
[Y]our letter omits a series of questions asked by Committee staff and answered by CGI officials that directly contradict your assertions. For example, in response to a question by Committee staff, CGI officials stated that they had no knowledge of any White House role in specific decisions relating to the website. CGI officials also stated that they had seen no evidence of political considerations affecting operational decisions about the website. And when asked if they were aware of any political intervention by anyone at the White House, CGI officials answered, “No, sir.”
Instead, CGI officials told Committee staff that they were well aware that effective implementation of the Affordable Care Act website is a top priority of the White House, and that CMS officials routinely stressed the importance of its proper functioning. Your letter appears to mix together news reports of questionable veracity with partial and incomplete descriptions of Committee briefings to create an unsubstantiated narrative that White House officials were making technical decisions based on political motivations.
Unfortunately, this has become an unfortunate pattern with this Committee. In the Committee’s past investigations involving Operation Fast and Furious, the attacks in Benghazi, and the IRS review of applicants for tax-exempt status, your approach has been to leap directly to accusations against the White House and top Administration officials with no basis in fact.
Rather than attempting to politicize this issue by making unsubstantiated allegations, we urge you to work with us to ensure that the Affordable Care Act is implemented effectively and efficiently so millions of Americans can receive the affordable health insurance coverage to which they are entitled.