Ads featuring Andy Griffith running in targeted markets during the election cycle at a reported cost to taxpayers of over $3 million in October alone are coming under scrutiny from Republican leaders on the House Ways and Means Committee.
Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), top Republican on the committee and Health subcommittee ranking Republican Wally Herger (R-Calif.) are seeking a Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigation into the question of election politics driving pro-Obamacare advertisements from Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Camp and Herger noted that the ads claim Obamacare will make positive changes to Medicare while omitting any reference to the half-trillion dollars in Medicare cuts from the bill that will result in fewer benefits and higher costs for millions of seniors.
FactCheck.org notes claim made in the ad are as “fictional as the town of Mayberry was when Griffith played the local sheriff.”
Camp and Herger expressed particular concern over news reports that HHS is spending $3 million in taxpayer dollars on television buys in the month of October alone — and that the ad buys are targeted to select areas of the country.
In their letter to Sebelius, the Republicans wrote, “As you know it would be highly inappropriate and perhaps illegal if HHS used taxpayer funds to purchase advertisements in areas of the country with the intent of impacting competitive Congressional races leading up to the election. Accordingly, we are also requesting that [the Government Accountability Office] fully investigate the appropriateness of the advertisements and the way in which they were placed.”
Specifically, Camp and Herger requested that HHS provide the following information regarding the advertisements:
• How much HHS spent on television advertisements targeted towards Medicare beneficiaries in the months of August, September, October, and November for each of the following years: 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010. In the case of October and November, 2010, please include the expected expenditures;
• For each television advertisement (including, but not limited to, the Andy Griffith, open enrollment, and Medicare and You advertisements), please provide a market by market analysis that specifies the cost, point totals, and spots per station that HHS has purchased in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010; and
• If this message is important for all seniors to hear, please provide us with an explanation for why it was decided, and by whom, to only run these advertisements in certain areas of the country. As part of that, please provide all documents, including emails and other communications with the White House, the Democratic National Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee that pertain to the basis for decisions about where to run these advertisements.
The letter to Sebelius is available in full here.