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It's a not-infrequent practice among corrupt city bureaucrats to seek "voluntary contributions" from firms the city regulates or licenses.  In impolite language, this is called a "shakedown."  Thus comes to mind a story from the Washington Post that begins:

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has gone, hat in hand, to health industry officials, asking them to make large financial donations to help with the effort to implement President Obama's landmark health-care law, two people familiar with the outreach said.

Her unusual fundraising push comes after Congress repeatedly rejected the Obama administration's requests for additional funds to set up the Affordable Care Act, leaving HHS to implement the president's signature legislative accomplishment on what officials have described as a shoestring budget.

Over the past three months, Sebelius has made multiple phone calls to health industry executives, community organizations and church groups and asked that they contribute whatever they can to nonprofit groups that are working to enroll uninsured Americans and increase awareness of the law, according to an HHS official and an industry person familiar with the secretary's activities.

Is this legal? 

To be honest, I don't know if it's legal.  It strikes me as a possible violation of the Anti-Deficiency Act, which prohibits federal agencies from accepting contributions in lieu of funding by Congress.  But legal or not, it smells to high heaven.  As the article notes farther down the page (emphasis added):

[HHS spokesman Jason] Young said that Sebelius did not solicit for funds directly from industries that HHS regulates, such as insurance companies and hospitals, but rather asked them to contribute in whatever way they can.

But [an] industry official who had knowledge of the calls but did not participate directly in them said there was a clear insinuation by the administration that the insurers should give financially to the nonprofits.

Meredith McGehee, policy director for the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, which researches government ethics issues, said she was troubled by Sebelius's activities because the secretary seemed to be "using the power of government to compel giving or insinuate that giving is going to be looked at favorably..."

Anyone want to take a guess about what happens in the HHS bureaucracy to those hospitals and insurance companies that decline "to contribute in whatever way they can?"

I don't know, of course.  My guess is that it's not entirely pleasant.  Still, I don't want to jump to conclusions.  Even if non-contributors get loaded down with extra red tape, scrutiny and delay, it's not like the would be targeted by the IRS or anything like that.

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Ask any regulatory lawyer, liberal, conservative, moderate or apolitical, whether there is a significant risk to not ponying up and they will tell you that there is.

That tells you all you need to know. Sibelius is a thug politician. In a just world, she would be behind bars.

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