In a recent story about how the health insurance marketplaces are being destabilized by the Trump administration’s vacillation, the LA Times reports:
At one recent meeting, Seema Verma, whom Trump picked to oversee the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs, stunned insurance industry officials by suggesting a bargain: The administration would fund the CSRs if insurers supported the House Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
For what its worth, the Trump administration denied that she had done so. But if she did, is that legal? Can politicians actually offer to give money from the Federal Treasury to companies in exchange for their political support (or withhold it for lack of that support)? If Ms. Verma was corruptly offering a “quid pro quo” exchange (as TalkingPointsMemo says), that would fit the statutory definition of the crime of bribery, as I discuss in a 2016 paper, The Appearance and Reality of Quid Pro Quo Corruption. However, this case also implicates the First Amendment rights of the insurance companies to support or oppose the Obamacare repeal. Continue reading