"Companies and organizations should never be pressured for money because it sends the message that contributions are necessary to secure favorable regulatory decisions—creating a 'pay to play' environment—or to avoid regulatory reprisals," the senators wrote in a letter to Sebelius.
The lawmakers asked for detailed information about Sebelius's outreach to industry groups and whether private funds also went to HHS accounts.
Two House committees launched similar investigations Monday.
“Our initial reaction is that this appears at best to be an inherent conflict of interest and at worst a potentially illegal augmentation of appropriation," the senators wrote.
Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats return to disappointment on immigration Authorities link ex-Tennessee governor to killing of Jimmy Hoffa associate The Republicans' deep dive into nativism MORE (R-Tenn.) has compared the fundraising to the Iran-Contra scandal, in which Congress refused to provide funding for Nicaraguan rebels, so officials in the Reagan administration raised private money for the fighters.