Iowa Sen. Harkin Calls for Federal Investigation of S.C. Gov. Haley
U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, has called for a federal investigation into "whether South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley exploited taxpayer dollars for political purposes" by allegedly dictating the findings of a nonpartisan health care panel, according to a news release.
Harkin cited a report last week from the (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier in which Haley told leaders of the South Carolina Health Planning Committee in an email that the committee was to figure out a way to opt out of a requirement in the new federal health care law requiring states to set up health insurance exchanges.
Haley established the committee with the help of a $1 million federal grant that was designed to help states figure out how to implement the new health care reforms. The state has so far spent about $109,000 of that money.
"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. "Spending taxpayer funds to construct an ideologically motivated facade not only violates Congress's intent, but also the public's trust in government."
Haley's office scoffed at the request.
"This is a joke," said Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey. "Governor Haley has long been on record opposing Obamacare and its exchanges, and she remains committed to keeping them out of South Carolina. ...
"I suggest 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."
Tony Keck, director of the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and an influential member of the Health Planning Committee, said the committee met in public sessions, discussed the possibilities and voted on its recommendations. He said Harkin's request is a political ploy.
"It pretty clear that the Democrats in Washington are upset" that South Carolina isn't falling in line on health insurance exchanges, Keck said.
Keck said the federal Health and Human Services agency approved the $109,000 in expenditures, which included office supplies and travel to gather information on other states' plans. The grant is set up so that the state is reimbursed for money spent. If the state doesn't spend the remaining $891,000, it stays in federal coffers.
Harkin wrote a letter to Daniel R. Levinson, the inspector general of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, asking him to "examine whether the state of South Carolina met the requirements of federal law in spending its exchange planning grant and whether that grant should be returned to the federal government in full.