Today Chairman Henry Waxman wrote to Secretary Leavitt requesting documents related to political interference with the work of the Office of the Surgeon General. Former Surgeon General Carmona testified before the Oversight Committee on July 10 that political appointees edited his public remarks, blocked him from developing or issuing several reports or calls to action, and denied travel requests on political grounds.
Full letter from Chairman Waxman to Secretary Leavitt:
July 11, 2007
Honorable Michael O. Leavitt
Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20201
Dear Mr. Secretary:
I am writing to request documents related to political interference with the work of the Office of the Surgeon General.
Yesterday, the Committee held a hearing on the Surgeon General's Vital Mission: Challenges for the Future. At the hearing, Dr. Richard Carmona, the most recent Surgeon General, testified that during his term, political appointees edited his public remarks, blocked him from developing or issuing several reports or calls to action, and denied travel requests on political grounds.
To assist the Committee in its investigation of these events, I request that you provide the following:
1. All documents related to the Surgeon General's report on global health;
2. All documents related to the Surgeon General's report on prison health;
3. All documents related to the Surgeon General's proposed reports on mental health preparedness and on emergency preparedness;
4. All documents relating to requests for Dr. Carmona to speak at events outside the Department, including events for other government agencies or the White House. Please indicate whether the request was accepted or denied; and
5. All travel requests submitted by Dr. Carmona, beginning in August 2002 through the end of his term. Please indicate whether the request was approved or denied.
The Committee requests that you produce these documents on or before July 25, 2007.
The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is the principal oversight committee in the House of Representatives and has broad oversight jurisdiction as set forth in House Rule X. An attachment to this letter provides additional information about how to respond to the Committee's request.
If you have any questions regarding this request, please contact me or ask your staff to contact Art Kellermann or Naomi Seiler with the Committee staff at (202) 225-5056.
Henry A. Waxman
From yesterday’s hearing, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton questions Richard Carmona on various reports referred to in the above letter which were allegedly censored or quashed, in particular one on Mental Health Preparedness:
“I got the best scientists in the world together, we had a discussion, everybody agreed this was a huge void in our society, that we needed to move this forward. So I generated the evidence base to support such a report moving forward to the American public. I then went and brought in other agencies. I brought in one of our sister agencies who had a political appointee who basically went to HHS, went to the White House and complained vehemently that this was not my responsibility, that he was in charge of mental health. In fact I was admonished by this gentleman, because he said ‘you don’t get it,’ he said ‘you don’t write anything unless we approve it…’”