September 27, 2011 8:41AM

A ‘Soviet‐​Style Power‐​Grab,’ to Squelch Bad Press for ObamaCare

The Department of Health and Human Services has released new guidelines on communications between department employees and the media. The guidelines evidently require all communications to be approved by the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs. Also: no off‐​the‐​record communications.

The media are not happy. The editor of FDA WebviewFDA Review writes (via Poynter; more here):

The new formal HHS Guidelines on the Provision of Information to the News Media represent, to this 36‐​year veteran of reporting FDA news, a Soviet‐​style power‐​grab. By requiring all HHS employees to arrange their information‐​sharing with news media through their agency press office, HHS has formalized a creeping information‐​control mechanism that informally began during the Clinton Administration and was accelerated by the Bush and Obama administrations. The U.S. now takes a large step toward joining other information‐​controlling countries like my native Australia, where government employees who talk with the news media without permission commit a federal crime. I came to the U.S. in 1974 to escape this oppression.

The HHS guidelines once again show that the purpose of a public information office is not to disseminate information to the public but to withhold information from the public.

Since this came on the heels of an HHS official announcing that the agency is scuttling ObamaCare’s long‐​term care entitlement, a.k.a. the “CLASS Act,” one wonders if there is a connection. Or maybe HHS is just motivated by a general fear that the more the public learns about ObamaCare, the less we will like it.

(Update: Turns out, HHS released their new guidelines the same day that agency official voiced his opinion about the future of the CLASS Act. HT: Chris Jacobs.)