The Trump administration reportedly paid a PR firm more than $2 million to get a top healthcare official onto 'Power Women' lists and magazine covers

Seema Verma

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Seema Verma listens in March 2017 as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting at the White House in Washington,

  • The Trump administration forked out over $2 million to contractors who discussed a publicity plan to get Centers for Medicare and Medicaid chief Seema Verma onto "Power Women" lists and magazines like Glamour, according to a new report in Politico.
  • The outline of the publicity plan noted that top-dollar media consultant Pam Stevens had already set up profiles of Verma and pitched her to other media outlets, Politico reported.
  • Federal officials are barred from using taxpayer money to generate publicity, or using their public role for private gain.
  • Verma has overseen the implementation of President Trump's controversial healthcare policies, including rolling back parts of the Affordable Care Act and enacting work requirements on Medicaid.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The Trump administration forked out more than $2 million to contractors who discussed a publicity plan to get Centers for Medicare and Medicaid chief Seema Verma onto "Power Women" lists and magazines like Glamour, according to emails obtained by Politico.

Another option they explored was an invite to distinguished events like the Kennedy Center Honors gala.Advertisement

Verma has come under fire in recent weeks for her agency's use of federal dollars to employ pricey communications contractors. Some charged up to $380 an hour for work that's typically handled by career civil servants within CMS's communications department, the outlet reported, part of a $2.25 million "strategic communications" contract.

The emails suggest the contractors were employed in a bid to boost Verma's own visibility as a government official, and not the policy work of her agency. Verma has since repeatedly said consultants were contracted "to promote the programs" already underway.

The outline of the publicity plan noted that top-dollar media consultant Pam Stevens had already set up profiles of Verma and pitched her to other media outlets, Politico reported.
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Federal officials are barred from using taxpayer money to generate publicity, or using their public role for their private gain.

CMS told Politico that the agency does not "does not consider or move forward with every idea we receive from contractors" and opportunities pursued were vetted by ethics lawyers.Verma testified last month to questions from Democratic Rep. Joe Kennedy at a congressional hearing that all CMS contracts were "based on promoting the work of CMS."Advertisement

But Kennedy told Politico he struggled to understand the merits of the arrangement.

"I have a hard time understanding the logic that this contract was necessary for the execution of the policy positions of this administration," Kennedy told Politico. "There have been important questions raised by the documents."

Verma has overseen the implementation of President Trump's controversial healthcare policies, including rolling back parts of the Affordable Care Act and enacting work requirements on Medicaid, the health insurance provider to low-income Americans.Advertisement

She's also attacked Medicare for All plans that some Democrats have pushed for and criticized wasteful government spending.

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