The woman who served as Virginia's secretary of health and human services under former governor, now U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, Marilyn Tavenner, is embroiled in the IRS/Obamacare scandal. (Whoever thought it would be a good idea to incorporate the IRS into our nation's health care system?) Tavenner is the administrator for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (remember this guy, the former administrator whom she replaced?). Among her domains as CMMS chief is the infamously mismanaged Obamacare website, HealthCare.gov. Award-winning investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson reported late last week that an e-mail by Tavenner obtained by Congress instructs the top CMMS spokesman to delete it. This is blatantly illegal and dovetails into the ongoing IRS/Obamacare scandal of deleted e-mails and destroyed records as Congress continues its investigation of IRS intimidation of conservative groups. (See the former CBS News reporter's article, here.) According to Attkisson, the order to delete is important for several reasons:
First, the email to be deleted included an exchange between key White House officials and (CMMS) officials. Second, the email was dated October 5, 2013, five days into the disastrous launch of HealthCare.gov. Third, federal law requires federal officials to retain copies of — not delete— email exchanges. And fourth, the document to be deleted is covered under Congressional subpoena as well as longstanding Freedom of Information requests made by members of the media (including me).
House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders on Friday issued a letter to Tavenner that asked her why she requested the deletion and if there were other such instructions to delete e-mails to Department of Health and Human Services staff. CMMS is part of HHS. According to Attkisson:
The letter also asks for more details regarding Congressional subpoenaed documents, including Tavenner emails that (CMMS) recently said might be permanently lost; and it requests an explanation as to why redactions are made in some documents provided to Congress so far.
While no one at this point is quite sure what the significance of Tavenner's actions are, the people copied on the e-mail are enough to raise certain suspicions, including White House Chief Technology Officer Todd Park, White House advisor on health care Christopher Jennings, other HHS and CMMS officials, and Jeanne Lambrew, President Obama's director of the White House Office of Health Reform. She is a central figure in the IRS scandal as e-mails obtained by the House Oversight Committee show that Lambrew "exchanged confidential taxpayer information on organizations with IRS official Sarah Hall Ingram and White House health policy advisor Ellen Montz," according to Attkisson. Lambrew is the official who hosted the vast majority of Ingram’s 165 White House visits.
House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said that "now we know that when HealthCare.gov was crashing, those in charge were hitting the delete button behind the scenes."
Attkisson filed a FOIA request with HHS, but has been met with resistance. She has followed up with a law suit, with the help of Judicial Watch, to extract the requested information on the HealthCare.gov and IRS scandals. However, just as one might expect when dealing with the federal bureaucracy, it's a Herculean hassle: She reports that:
There appears to be no down side for federal officials when they flout FOI law to delay and obfuscate. Even in the relatively rare instances in which they are sued, they pay the legal bills with your tax dollars. (Emphasis added.)
Former Virginia HHS Secretary Marilyn Tavenner, who served in the Kaine Administration, now is embroiled in Congress' Obamacare/IRS investigation.