The Weekly Standard blows the lid off another non-scandal -- and, in the process, all but begs House Republicans to conduct a wasteful and inane investigation:
HHS is Paying Google with Taxpayer Money to Alter 'Obamacare' Search Results (Updated)
The brazenness of the Obama administration never ceases to amaze. Try typing “Obamacare” into Google, and you'll find that the first entry is now the Obama administration's www.healthcare.gov. If you don't particularly like that result, you'll probably hate the fact that you're paying for it.
Using taxpayers' money to alter the results of search engines and to control the flow of information is disturbing on multiple levels. It's particularly disturbing when it's done to promote a massive expansion of government power, like Obamacare. And one wonders how – or if – it's even legal.
Perhaps the new House of Representatives will want to ask the unelected Secretary Sebelius to explain how, or why, she thinks such use of taxpayers' money to promote a particular -- and highly unpopular -- political agenda is legally or substantively justifiable.
“Obamacare” isn't a “political agenda,” it's a government program, passed by Congress and signed into law by the President. The government has a natural and appropriate interest in making sure the public knows how a new government program works. The public, quite obviously, has such an interest as well.
Buying ads on Google isn't “control[ing] the flow of information,” it's buying ads. It isn't a nefarious bribe to get Google to alter search results; it's how Google ads work. Here's the first example that popped into my head:
See what happened there? I typed “the weekly standard” into Google's search box, and Google put an ad for the Weekly Standard atop my search results. That's exactly what happened with the www.healthcare.gov ads in question. Here's a screenshot, from Politico's Ben Smith:
So, this is nothing more than the government buying ads, exactly -- exactly -- like The Weekly Standard does. Is that a scandal? Of course not. The government buys ads all the time. Like those military recruitment commercials you probably see a few hundred times a year. I haven't seen the Weekly Standard denounce that as an illegal use of taxpayer money to promote a political agenda by controlling the flow of information. Good thing, too: Such a complaint would be stupid.