Watchdog group files complaint over Verma’s tweets

CMS Administrator Seema Verma’s Halloween tweet has drawn lots of attention, including from a government watchdog that says she likely violated the Hatch Act.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel stating Verma likely violated the act by using her official government Twitter account to “advocate against a political party and by participating in a partisan opinion piece while in her official capacity,” according to a press release from the watchdog group.

The Hatch Act prohibits executive branch employees from using their official authority or influence to interfere with or affect the result of an election.

On Halloween, Verma tweeted an image of a T-shirt that read, “Medicare for All,” along with a comment that the shirt was the “scariest Halloween costume” of the year. The tweet immediately drew criticism. As CMS administrator, Verma is tasked with running both federal programs Medicare and Medicaid.

Medicare for all has gained ground among progressive Democrats as of late, as well as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who introduced legislation for such a healthcare system. HHS Secretary Alex Azar, along with President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), has slammed such a proposal, which is estimated to cost $32 trillion over a decade.

Verma’s tweet, however, may have crossed a line, according to CREW. She also retweeted a message posted by Boris Epshteyn, a former Trump campaign senior advisor, that attacked the Democratic party.

“For a second consecutive week, we are filing a complaint against a Trump administration official for illegally using an official position for partisan politics,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement. “Administrator Verma, who oversees benefits to millions of Americans, should be particularly sensitive about not abusing her position for politics, and she certainly should know better by now after the administration’s many previous violations. We are now left to assume that Trump administration officials are well aware of their obligations under the Hatch Act and simply have no intention of following the law.”

Verma has since doubled down on her tweet, continuing to bash Medicare for all.