Approximately $373 million was given to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Communities Putting Prevention to Work Program,” (CPPW) a government program to educate Americans about obesity and tobacco use. However approximately $95 million of the funds were instead used to lobby for higher taxes and new local laws, according to a report by the nonpartisan group Cause of Action, (CoA whose stated mission is to expose how “government is playing politics in its use of taxpayer dollars. And the "fun" part of the is the $373 million program is about to expand to a $2 Billion dollar program.
CoA learned that the CDC encouraged grantees to use CPPW funds to “educate” decision makers about the benefits of local "nanny-state" ordinances designed to limit the sale of fast foods, sugar sweetened beverages, and tobacco products, including comprehensive smoking bans. Rather than what the bill directed the CDC to do which was to instruct the public about the dangers of obesity and smoking.
“Cause of Action has uncovered that the Department of Health and Human Services, the largest grant-issuing agency in the federal government, by failing to conduct effective oversight of the CPPW program, allowed taxpayer dollars to be misused, in some cases violating federal statute. With a program whose funding is expected to grow into the billions, how much more lobbying will the taxpayers be on the hook for before Kathleen Sebelius decides that it’s time to be accountable?”
Upon learning that the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) had issued a report in June 2012 on the alleged misconduct of CPPW grantees in Florence County, South Carolina, CoA expanded its own investigation. CoA is the first organization to report findings of federal money being dedicated for lobbying in these seven other communities:
$2 billion in annual funding is currently scheduled for disbursement under the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s Community Transformation Grants program to fight obesity use at the local, state, and federal level.
- Pima County, AZ
- Mobile County, AL
- Jefferson County, AL
- Miami-Dade County, FL
- DeKalb County, GA
- Los Angeles County, CA
- Santa Clara County, CA
The findings are based on such information as internal emails, meeting notes and CDC grant applications that “blatantly show systemic corruption and use of taxpayer dollars for lobbying,” according to the report.In Georgia The DeKalb County Board of Health (DCBH) used the funds to support the adoption of a strengthened county clean indoor air ordinance (CIAO) and partnered with the Georgia Alliance for Tobacco Prevention (GA Alliance) to train coalition partners and finance a media campaign in support of state cigarette tax increase. Additionally, the DCBH used CPPW funds to conduct a focus group using exotic dancers from a local strip joint to gauge support for a strengthened CIAO. The group is asking for further investigation of the program and says the request is timely, considering the scheduled release of $2 billion annually, starting in 2015, for a similar program under President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
In one example, California’s Santa Clara County Public Health Department allegedly used taxpayer money to hire a tobacco-retail-license coordinator to lobby for a workplace smoking ordinance and also used program funds to support a state-wide tobacco tax increase.
In the South Carolina case, the CDC found the state violated rules by using program money to plan a press conference to lobby a city council to support a pending, clean-indoor-air ordinance with no exemptions.
All of the above and other examples in the report are against the law--
the measure has been codified at 18 U.S.C. § 1913, and was most recently amended in 2002. The statute now reads, in part:
In other words our tax dollars are not only being used to promote a nanny state, but its being done so illegally. Perhaps Congress should take away the $2 Billion dollars to be spent next.No part of the money appropriated by any enactment of Congress shall . . . be used directly or indirectly to pay for any personal service, advertisement, telegram, telephone, letter, printed or written matter, or other device, intended or designed to influence in any manner a Member of Congress, a jurisdiction, or an official of any government, to favor, adopt, or oppose, by vote or otherwise, any legislation, law, ratification, policy or appropriation.The DOJ has repeatedly interpreted the Anti-Lobbying Act as prohibiting “grassroots lobbying,” i.e. campaigns of telephone calls, telegrams, letters, or other disseminations particularly directed at members of the public urging them to contact government officials about pending legislation.
The DOJ has also addressed whether the statute is restricted in its application solely to federal employees, concluding that, since the 2002 amendment, the answer is no:
We do not believe that section 1913 is limited to lobbying by agency officials as such. The prohibitory portion of section 1913 – “[n]o part of the money appropriated by any enactment of Congress shall, in the absence of express authorization by Congress, be used directly or indirectly” for prohibited purposes– is not limited to the communication of agency positions. Rather, its language on its face applies to the use of appropriated funds for any communications designed to influence Members of Congress or other officials with respect to any legislation, law, ratification, policy, or appropriation . . . [A]mendments to section 1913 enacted in 2002 removed language that had limited the penalties under that section to ‘an officer or employee of the United States or of any department or agency thereof,’ see Pub. L. No. 107-273, Div. A, Title II, § 205(b), 116 Stat. 1778 (2002), and thus undermined any argument that only lobbying by persons acting for an agency in an official capacity would be covered.