The key measure for an effective ad campaign is an affirmative response to a simple question: “Do viewers remember the ad?” In the case of Oregon and their effort to drive people to the state’s Obamacare exchange, officials are doing everything in their power to make people forget the awful campaign, including, allegedly, deleting emails and documents pertaining to what has become an every-growing story of corruption and criminality.
Former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber made his name in politics as an advocate of health care reform. He was a champion of Obamacare and other government-spending schemes. When the federal spending spigot opened for states to establish their own health care exchanges, Kitzhaber and his crew were eager to be among the first in line. The Obama administration in turn was happy to rain $200 million of federal funds into Oregon to establish a model program that other states would emulate.
Trouble in paradise started when Cover Oregon began running ads touting the exchange. The ads looked like they were designed by a hippie at Woodstock who was still suffering the after-effects of a decades long acid-trip. They were emblazed in people’s minds, but not in the way state officials wanted, and instead became fodder for incessant mockery from comedians and late night talk show hosts.
There was a greater problem, however. No one signed up. No one. The web experienced problems similar to those of the federal government, but according to insiders who are now speaking to federal criminal investigators the problems were fixable with some more time. The problem wasn’t the technology; it was the people who were in charge of the operation — Kitzhaber’s political operators.
When trouble started, Kitzhaber apparently violated state law prohibiting governmental decisions from being made for political purposes. He tasked his chief political advisor, his Karl Rove in a dress and state’s self-proclaimed “Princess of Darkness,” Patricia McCaig to oversee Cover Oregon.
McCaig wasn’t a doctor. She wasn’t an Information Technology expert. She was there to make sure the political burden of a heath care exchange that would not work did not fall on to the back of her boss, who was up for an expected tight re-election fight.
As criticism rose, so did the pressure. McCaig made the decision to kill the exchange. The $300 million invested would be effectively put in the trash can and permanently deleted. McCaig then instructed the state to sue the contractors on the project in a desperate effort to shift the blame for the mess.
The scandal became part of a vortex that ultimately took down a governor. Whistleblowers have come forth to tell investigators that Kitzhaber’s cronies attempted to delete emails and documents pertaining to Cover Oregon and the other scandals that enveloped the administration.
With hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars wasted and the effort in complete disarray, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the Chairman of the House Government Oversight Committee, has now demanded all documents and emails be restored and turned over to his Committee for investigation. It appears that Chaffetz is going to call state officials, whistleblowers and hopefully, the Princess of Darkness herself to come to testify. It will be the most excitement Washington has had since Lois Lerner came before Chaffetz’ committee.
This is no laughing matter, however. Over a quarter of a billion dollars went missing and no one yet has been held accountable. Congress should continue to pursue the matter until it’s satisfactorily explained how this boondoggle happened. Leave no stone unturned.