BUILDING THE BRAND: Seema Verman joined the governor and DHS Director Cindy Gillespie last March to tout the work rule required for Arkansans to qualify for expanded Medicaid coverage. That rule has been struck down in court Benjamin Hardy

A Politico exclusive on the Trump swamp
has resonance in Arkansas and more than a touch of irony in the spending of federal tax dollars.

The Trump appointee who oversees Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare quietly directed millions of taxpayer dollars in contracts to Republican communications consultants during her tenure atop the agency — including hiring one well-connected GOP media adviser to bolster her public profile.

The communications subcontracts approved by CMS Administrator Seema Verma — routed through a larger federal contract and described to POLITICO by three individuals with firsthand knowledge of the agreements — represent a sharp break from precedent at the agency. Those deals, managed by Verma’s deputies, came in some cases over the objections of CMS staffers, who raised concerns about her push to use federal funds on GOP consultants and to amplify coverage of Verma’s own work. CMS has its own large communications shop, including about two dozen people who handle the press.

Verma has worked closely with Gov. Asa Hutchinson on imposing work requirements on Medicaid. Yes. Millions in tax dollars being spent to exalt a woman trying to grind down poor people. The agency naturally defends the boss.


But some career CMS staff have voiced their concerns to political appointees within the agency about routing taxpayer dollars to GOP consultants and helping a federal official like Verma improve her personal brand, said two individuals aware of those conversations. Oversight groups also have raised concerns, saying the behavior, as described to them by POLITICO, would appear to cross ethical lines.

Remember this when Arkansas legislators balk in the House today at contributing a mite to health care coverage for hundreds of thousands of Arkansas poor people without the punitive work rule. Perhaps Verma’s practices might discourage some of the usual self-righteous thundering.