By Sam Baker - 05/11/13 06:49 PM EDT
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius might have broken the law by asking insurance companies to donate to outside groups promoting President Obama's healthcare law, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said Saturday.
Alexander compared the fundraising to the Iran-Contra scandal.
"Secretary Sebelius’s fundraising for and coordinating with private entities helping to implement the new health care law may be illegal, should cease immediately and should be fully investigated by Congress," Alexander said in a statement.
Sebelius has undertaken the fundraising push because HHS has very little money to promote the healthcare law and Congress has refused to boost the implementation budget.
Alexander cited the Iran-Contra affair, in which Reagan official Oliver North raised money and directed it to Nicaraguan rebels. Congress said the fundraising was illegal if it used a private entity that "is in reality an arm of the government."
"If the Department of Health and Human Services closely coordinates with Enroll America and with other such entities, then the legal analogy with Iran-Contra is strong," Alexander said.
He said Sebelius might also have violated a federal law that says government employees cannot raise money from groups they regulate.