Congressional watchdog finds Energy Dept. violated law with anti-ObamaCare tweet

Congressional watchdog finds Energy Dept. violated law with anti-ObamaCare tweet
© Greg Nash

A congressional watchdog agency found Thursday that the Department of Energy violated the law last year with a negative tweet about ObamaCare.

The report from the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, finds that the Department of Energy violated the law because its funding is not directed to be used for health-care messaging.

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The tweet in question, from last July, linked to an anti-ObamaCare opinion piece by Energy Secretary Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryOvernight Energy: Mueller report reveals Russian efforts to sow division over coal jobs | NYC passes sweeping climate bill likened to 'Green New Deal' | EPA official says agency may ban asbestos | Energy Dept. denies Perry planning exit The Hill's 12:30 Report: Inside the Mueller report The very early, boring Democratic primary: Biden v. Bernie MORE, stating, “Time to discard the burdens and costs of Obamacare: @SecretaryPerry.”

The agency deleted the tweet later in the day.

“We find that Energy violated the purpose statute when it tweeted about the Secretary’s column because Energy did not show that its appropriation is available for the purpose of informing the public about health care legislation,” the GAO report states.   

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneAnti-smoking advocates question industry motives for backing higher purchasing age Overnight Health Care: DOJ charges doctors over illegal opioid prescriptions | Cummings accuses GOP of obstructing drug pricing probe | Sanders courts Republican voters with 'Medicare for All' | Dems probe funding of anti-abortion group House Democrats probe Trump administration's funding of anti-abortion group MORE (N.J.), the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, denounced the Trump administration over the findings.

“This is yet another example of the Trump Administration’s illegal and unacceptable use of taxpayer funds for political gain,” Pallone, who requested the report, wrote on Twitter.

Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said in a statement that the agency disagrees that it broke the law, arguing that the department has responsibilities related to medical research that make health care within its purview.

"The Department disagrees with the conclusion that DOE was in violation of the Purpose Statute," Hynes said. "DOE’s Office of General Counsel stated in its response letter to GAO that the OpEd and tweet covered issues well within the mission of the Department of Energy."