Millions spent on communications contracts included plans to raise profile of CMS chief

Kelly Gooch - Print  | 

Correspondence obtained by Politico reveals that millions CMS spent on communications contractors included a publicity plan to boost CMS Administrator Seema Verma's image and feature her in women's, leadership and general-interest magazines such as Glamour.

Politico reports that the correspondence — emails between high-profile media consultant Pam Stevens, Ms. Verma and Brady Brookes, Ms. Verma's deputy chief of staff — show there were also discussions to win recognition for Ms. Verma on "Power Women" lists and get Ms. Verma invited to the Kennedy Center Honors and other distinguished events.

The Politico report comes as CMS has faced scrutiny for spending millions of dollars on communications contractors.

CMS has defended its decisions. Last month, Ms. Verma told lawmakers during questioning: "All of the contracts that we have at CMS are based on promoting the work of CMS," according to Politico.

She also told The Hill: "When I came to CMS, my vision for the comms department was very different than what we had. I wanted to make sure that we were communicating with our patient population … and the provider community."

However, Politico reported that the correspondence between federal officials and communications contractors indicate that they also discussed increasing Ms. Verma's own public visibility and potential magazine interviews/profiles, among other things.

A CMS spokesperson told Politico that the agency "does not consider or move forward with every idea we receive from contractors" and that any pursued opportunities were reviewed and vetted by ethics lawyers.

"CMS pursued only a few of the suggestions in the proposal that were aligned with our priorities and promoted the work of the agency and our record shows just that," the spokesperson said.

It was unclear what opportunities in the publicity plan were pursued, Politico said.

Read the full Politico report here.

 

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Read the full Politico report here.

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