Judicial Watch Sues HHS Over Failure to Produce Jonathan Gruber Contracting and Consulting Records
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that on February 13, 2015, it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) seeking “any and all” records concerning contracts and consultancy agreements between the HHS and Jonathan Gruber, the Obamacare architect who controversially referenced “the stupidity of the American voter” in describing efforts to pass the Obamacare legislation (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (No. 1:15-cv-00223)).
Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit after HHS refused to respond to a November 19, 2014, FOIA request, seeking the following information:
Any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to contracts, and/or consultancy agreements between HHS and Dr. Jonathan Gruber, including but not limited to [a] contract awarded June 19, 2009 for “Technical Assistance in Evaluating Options for National Healthcare Reform” (Contract Award Number HHSP23320091301EC).
In a February 2009 posting, the justification for the sole source “Technical Assistance” agreement on FedBizOpps.com, Clint D. Druk, of the HHS Program Support Center, wrote:
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), intends to negotiate with Jonathan Gruber, Ph.D. on a sole sources basis for technical assistance in evaluating options for national healthcare reform. The basis for restricting competition is the authority 13.106-1(b) because only one source is reasonably available to satisfy agency requirements. The anticipated contract period will be for one year …
Dr. Gruber’s ongoing advisory role with the Office of Health Reform strongly positions him to meet HHS’ requirements the most efficiently, which is a key requirement in order for well-developed legislative proposals to be put forth for Congressional consideration as soon as possible.
In a “Fact Checker” article about the Gruber “Technical Assistance” contract with HHS, the Washington Post reported:
The first four months of the contract could not be found on the FedBizOpp.gov Web site, but in June 2009, HHS renewed the contract for eight months, with a value of $297,600. Gruber in an e-mail confirmed that the first part of the contract was for $95,000.
That adds up to $392,600 — or “almost $400,000.”
According to the Daily Caller, Gruber, in all, earned “at least” $5.9 million after being recruited by the Obama administration to help craft its health care law. According to the Caller’s Chuck Ross, “The federal government has paid Jonathan Gruber at least $4 million since the year 2000, for his work as an expert witness, a legal consultant and for his consultation on Obamacare. That comes on top of at least $1.6 million the MIT economist has been paid by several states to consult on their health care bills.”
Gruber is the MIT economics professor who the New York Times called “Mr. Mandate” in recognition of the key role he played in crafting the Obamacare law, which is formally titled the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act:
After Mr. Gruber helped the administration put together the basic principles of the proposal, the White House lent him to Capitol Hill to help Congressional staff members draft the specifics of the legislation.
In late 2014, American Commitment posted videos of Gruber talking about how the “lack of transparency is a huge political advantage” in taking advantage of “the stupidity of the American voter” in passing Obamacare over the objections of a resistant electorate. Gruber also talked about how the “Cadillac tax” was sold as tax on insurance companies when it’s really a tax on the middle class. In another video Gruber admitted that Obamacare’s subsidies were limited to state-run exchanges only, an issue which is now before the Supreme Court in David King, et al. v. Sylvia Burwell, a case in which Judicial Watch has filed an amicus curiae brief.
“The Obama HHS is flouting FOIA law to keep the truth about Gruber from the American public and, it seems, the Supreme Court,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “HHS doesn’t want to disclose Mr. Gruber’s key role in Obamacare because his statements could be used by the High Court to upend Obama’s illegal tax subsidies. Why else would HHS go into full cover-up mode about contracts with one man? From its inception, its passage, its implementation, and its enforcement, ‘lack of transparency’ has been essential to keeping Obamacare alive. President Obama’s knowing lies about how Americans could keep their doctors and insurance under Obamacare show that he is no better than Gruber in his contempt for ‘stupid’ American voters. (Ironically, it was one citizen offended by Obama’s lies – and who lost his insurance – who uncovered the Gruber videos.)”
The Gruber contract lawsuit is not the first time Judicial Watch has been forced to take the Obama administration to court to uncover information about Obamacare issues that the government has hidden from the public. Since late 2013, Judicial Watch has sued the Obama administration at least 11 times just to get basic information about Obamacare.
In December 2013, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA lawsuit against HHS seeking enrollment figures for the federal health care law. In May 2014, Judicial Watch released a 106-page document obtained from HHS, revealing that on its first full day of operation, Obamacare’s Healthcare.gov received only one enrollment. The accuracy of the HHS enrollment figures remains a continuing point of controversy, as the Obama administration continues to release conflicting figures.
In March 2014, Judicial Watch filed two FOIA lawsuits against HHS to obtain information on Obamacare exemptions and security. One lawsuit seeks information about the December 19, 2013, decision by the Obama administration to establish new “hardship exemptions” that could allow most consumers to escape the Obamacare individual mandate without penalty. The second suit seeks records about security and privacy concerns surrounding Obamacare’s Healthcare.gov web portal.
In September 2014, Judicial Watch released 94 pages of documents obtained from HHS revealing that in the days leading up to the rollout of Obamacare, top Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) officials knew of massive security risks with Healthcare.gov and yet chose to roll out the website without resolving the problems. Judicial Watch also acquired “Sensitive Information – Special Handling” memos sent from CMS to Mitre Corporation, the Healthcare.gov security testing company, in which CMS rated “political … damage” and “public embarrassment to CMS” as key factors far exceeding the public welfare in defining “Risk Rating” priorities.