Seema Verma, the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), engaged in potentially illegal political advocacy in her official position, which was reportedly part of a strategy devised by the White House to influence the midterm elections and criticize Medicare for All. CREW filed a Hatch Act complaint and a supplement to the original complaint calling on the Office of Special Counsel to investigate the matter.
Verma used an official government Twitter account to advocate against a political party and participated in a video opinion piece by former Trump campaign senior advisor Boris Epshteyn. One such message was Verma’s retweet of a tweet by Epshteyn attacking the Democratic party: “[email protected] believes that the Democrat-backed ‘Medicare For All’ is simply a bad idea. The focus of the agency? Strengthening the Medicare program itself. Watch our interview here.” Verma also tweeted messages about Medicare for All that mirror Republican talking points that were being used in campaign ads.
Politico reported that White House identified Medicare for All as a wedge issue ahead of the midterm elections, and encouraged Verma and other administration officials to criticize the idea over the summer and in to the fall.
The Hatch Act prohibits any executive branch employee from using “his official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election” including using “his or her official title while participating in political activity.” Political activity is defined by OSC as “an activity directed toward the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.”
The timing of the tweets–just days before the midterm elections–and healthcare’s central role in the public debate between political parties only strengthens the argument that these statements were made in order to advocate for partisan politics.