Doctor & patient groups say White House intended to shut up opponents
Washington DC -- The Office of the President and other White House officials are defendants in a free speech lawsuit filed by a prominent physician group, and a non-profit advocate for inner-city poor.
The White House has “unlawfully collected information on political speech,” thereby illegally using the power of the White House to chill opposition to its plans for health care reform, according to the complaint filed in District Court for the District of Columbia, by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) and the Coalition for Urban Renewal and Education (CURE)
The lawsuit was prompted by the White House solicitation for the public to report any “fishy” comments to ‘firstname.lastname@example.org.’ Although the White House slightly revised its data collection procedure last week, the email address still exists, the illegal activity continues, and is part of an “unlawful pattern and practice to collect and maintain information” on the exercise of free speech, which “continues in violation of the Privacy Act and First Amendment even if the Defendants terminate a particular information-collection component due to negative publicity.”
The lawsuit outlines how the White House has employed a form of “bait-and-switch” tactic of accusing the Plaintiffs and other opponents of spreading misinformation about the Administration’s goals for health care reform, and thereby refusing to ‘come clean’ about its real agenda.
The lawsuit outlines that the White House knew that the data collection would chill free speech, and in fact, intended to do just that:
“43. As part of their effort to advance the White House healthcare reform agenda, Defendants have accused opponents (including Plaintiffs) of spreading misinformation on issues such as whether (a) health reform would provide public funding for abortions, (b) put “death panels” in place to deny care to the elderly or infirm, (c) amount to a government takeover of healthcare, and (d) increase healthcare costs..the Defendants and the administration have spread misinformation, semantics, and disinformation on these topics…..
“45. By denying and continuing to deny that healthcare reform legislation includes “death panels” that make individual life-or-death decisions on the elderly or infirm, the Defendants and the current administration have ignored and implicitly denied and continue to ignore and implicitly to deny both that their healthcare reform agenda involves rationing healthcare…”
“My hate mail started shortly after the White House issued the ‘fishy’ request,” said Kathryn Serkes, Director of Policy and Public Affairs for AAPS. “We were quite visible and vocal before then, so it doesn’t seem like a coincidence. Who did they share their data with? With whom might they share it?”
AAPS and CURE demand that the White House remove all information already collected, and further, be prohibited from collecting any personal data in the future.
NOTE: AAPS is a non-partisan professional association of physicians dedicated since 1943 to protection of the patient-physician relationship. CURE, founded by Star Parker, serves poor and inner-city communities through church, individual, and market-based solutions to poverty.
The case number is Civil Action No. 09-1621-EGS.
REPORTERS: CONTACT KATHRYN SERKES