Jon Elswick/AP

Transparency Group Wants to Know If HUD’s Promotion of Obamacare Was Illegal

Cause of Action tells IGs department may have broken the law by working on a project outside its appropriations.

A conservative-leaning investigative group on Monday called upon two inspectors general to probe whether the Housing and Urban Development Department broke the law by coordinating with the Health and Human Services Department to promote the Affordable Care Act.

Cause of Action, a nonprofit devoted to transparency and limiting government’s reach, sent letters to two agency watchdogs based on documents leaked to the Washington Examiner in August 2013, including a slide show prepared for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. In response, 39 Republican senators wrote to White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler complaining about “activities being undertaken by 20 or more federal agencies with no responsibilities under the president’s health care law in the implementation and promotion of that law.”

Signatories of the congressional letter included Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz.; John Thune, R-S.D; Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; Mike Lee, R-Utah; and Rand Paul, R-Ky.

Last November HUD released an agency email and PowerPoint presentation that showed, according to Cause of Action’s letter to HUD IG David Montoya, that “HUD employees expended considerable time and effort to work on a project outside the agency’s appropriation.” The nonprofit – which obtained the email and PowerPoint through a Freedom of Information Act request in February 2013 -- “is also concerned that HUD may have violated the prohibitions against publicity, lobbying, and propaganda and was pressured to do so by the White House,” the group’s counsel wrote.

Cause of Action suggested that numerous high-level HUD officials and regional administrators may have “improperly directed subordinate staff to engage in activity that violated HUD’s appropriations.”

A second letter to HHS watchdog Daniel Levinson added an assertion that HHS, by accepting volunteer services from other agencies, may have violated the Anti-Deficiency Act.

Copies were sent to dozens of lawmakers with oversight and appropriations duties.

A spokeswoman for the HUD IG said her agency had not yet received the request. HUD, HHS and the White House did not respond to requests for comment by late Monday afternoon.