Trump tried to use $250 Million Ad Campaign for Covid to Help his Reelection

Trump Administration official Michael Caputo inserted partisan political interests into the ad campaig
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Wednesday, Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney, Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Chairman James E. Clyburn, and Oversight and Reform’s Economic and Consumer Policy Subcommittee Chairman Raja Krishnamoorthi sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar releasing new documents obtained from contractors regarding a $250 million contract awarded by the Trump Administration to launch a massive advertising campaign just weeks before the election to “defeat despair and inspire hope” amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is critical that HHS provide accurate, nonpolitical public health information to the American people that encourages mask wearing, social distancing, and other science-backed public health recommendations,” wrote the Chairs. “Yet, the documents we have obtained indicate that HHS political appointees sought to use taxpayer dollars to advance a partisan political agenda and direct taxpayer money to their friends and allies.”

On September 10, 2020, the Chairs wrote to HHS seeking documents about this massive contract. HHS has produced no documents to date in response to this request.

In the meantime, the Chairs sought and obtained documents from contractors implementing this contract. These documents show:

  • Trump Administration official Michael Caputo inserted partisan political interests into the ad campaign;
  • Contractor employees and career staff at the Food and Drug Administration pushed back on these inappropriate efforts; and
  • The Trump Administration and its contractors vetted celebrities for the ad campaign based on whether they support gay rights and same-sex marriage or have ever disagreed with President Trump in the past.

Documents obtained from the contractors also show that, as of October 1, 2020, all celebrities who had agreed to participate in the ad campaign have withdrawn their consent to do so.

“Your failure to provide the documents we requested—especially in light of the information we have learned from the contractors—appears to be part of a cover-up to conceal the Trump Administration’s misuse of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars for partisan political purposes ahead of the upcoming election, and to direct taxpayer funds to friends and allies of Trump Administration officials,” added the Chairs.

On October 2, 2020, Secretary Azar testified before the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis that HHS had begun a “strategic review” of this advertising campaign to “determine whether the campaign serves important public health purposes.”

Click here to read today’s letter.

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