HHS Secretary Tom Price

HHS Secretary Tom Price Alex Brandon/AP

HHS Secretary Price Accused of Campaign Finance Violation

Two legal groups file FEC complaint about PAC’s support for confirmation.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price is the target of a complaint to the Federal Election Commission by two campaign finance reform groups that claim he violated the law by using congressional campaign funds to ease his confirmation by the Senate.

The Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, in a July 7 filing against the “Price for Congress” reelection committee, said that group violated the Federal Election Campaign Act and FEC regulations by using campaign funds for personal activities.

The charge stems from a Jan. 26 payment of $40,000, sent to the Arlington, Va.- based America Rising, days after Price’s contentious hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

The conservative political opposition research group went to bat this winter for Price and other Trump nominees. Examples on its website from January include: “HuffPo Uses More Fake News To Smear Tom Price: The left-wing machine has always had a vendetta out for Tom Price because of his desire to repeal ObamaCare and put patients and doctors back in charge of the health care.”

The complainants, relying on America Rising’s report to the FEC in April, argued that “federal law is clear that congressional campaign funds are to be used to support a run for Congress or one’s duties as a Member of Congress—not so you can land a job after Congress,” said Brendan Fischer, director of the Campaign Legal Center’s federal and FEC reform program. “The corrupting potential of campaign contributions is amplified if officeholders can use the funds for their own personal benefit.”

Donald Simon, counsel to Democracy 21, added, “The FEC should investigate whether Secretary Price improperly used campaign funds for personal benefit by transferring funds to a group that advocated for his confirmation as secretary.”

Neither HHS nor America Rising responded to requests for comment by publication time.

But Brian Rogers, executive director of the group’s affiliate America Rising Squared, told Slate magazine last week that his group was necessary because certain Trump nominees faced a “wall of obstruction” Democrats. “The reason we got involved in the first place was the Democrats’ unprecedented efforts to prevent President Trump from assembling his Cabinet after winning the election in November,” Rogers said. “To appease their looney left-wing base, Democrats waged a campaign to oppose and obstruct eminently qualified nominees at a rate never seen before in American history, going back to George Washington.”