Tom Harkin: Investigate S.C. Gov. Haley about healthcare panel
U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) is going after Nikki Haley, the Republican governor of South Carolina, in the latest flare-up over the federal health-insurance reform law.
This week, Harkin wrote a letter to the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services asking for an investigation into whether Haley "exploited taxpayer dollars for political purposes."
The issue, according to Harkin, is that Haley might have directed a foreordained outcome for a federally funded state panel that was supposed to look into the feasibility of setting up the health insurance exchanges that are part of what conservatives derisively call "Obamacare," according to the State newspaper in Columbia, S.C.
At the heart of the matter is an investigative report earlier this month by Renee Dudley of the Charleston Post & Courier, which described an email Haley sent to a key member of the panel.
"The whole point of this commission should be to figure out how to opt out and how to avoid a federal takeover, NOT to create a state exchange," Haley wrote.
That, eventually, is what the panel did.
For critics such as Harkin, the problem with that directive is that it conflicted with the panel's mission, which, according to Haley's own executive order, was meant to decide "whether or not the state should establish a health insurance exchange."
The other problem, as Harkin sees it, is that the panel was established with a $1-million federal grant. Dudley, of the Post & Courier, reported that $109,000 of the grant appears to have been spent holding meetings and performing other tasks to consider a policy question whose outcome was apparently already decided.
“It was certainly not the intent for those taxpayer funds to be distributed for a predetermined and meaningless outcome,” Harkin said in a news release, according to the State. “Spending taxpayer funds to construct an ideologically-motivated façade not only violates Congress’s intent, but also the public’s trust in government."
In his letter, Harkin asked the head of Health and Human Services to look into whether South Carolina should give the $1 million back.
Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey, in an email to the paper, shot back that "the liberal senator from Iowa is better off investigating how pro-Obamacare governors are wasting tens of millions of tax dollars studying how to implement a fatally flawed and unconstitutional law that will hopefully soon be struck down by the Supreme Court."
-- Richard Fausset in Atlanta
Photo: South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, right, speaks, as Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney looks on during a town hall meeting at Memminger Auditorium, Saturday in Charleston, S.C. Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Associated Press