That Old Razzle-Dazzle

Who says Michelle didn’t do anything in that no-show hospital job she had in Chicago?

There’s no better investment, apparently, than in the wife of a on-the-come hustling Chicago politician:

The Department of Health and Human Services last week announced it had awarded a $5.9 million grant to a University of Chicago Medical Center program tied to Michelle Obama and run by Eric Whitaker, one of President Obama’s closest friends.

The Urban Health Initiative, which received the award, was originally based on a smaller program launched during the last decade by Michelle Obama, who was an executive at the University of Chicago Medical Center before she departed to become first lady. The UHI is headed up by Obama basketball and golf buddy Whitaker, who has known the president since Obama’s days in law school and who also vacations with the first family.

Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett also has ties to the UHI. Until resigning to go work at the White House, Jarrett was Chairman of the University of Chicago Medical Center Board of Trustees. And in 2007, a PR firm run by former senior White House adviser and Obama political guru David Axelrod provided provided public relations strategy advice to the UHI, according to the Washington Post.

There is no specific evidence that any of those linked to the Obamas, or the Obamas themselves, influenced the HHS decision to grant the funding to the UHI. BUT the large award raises questions about appearance, given the number of Obama associates connected to the program and the involvement of the first lady with its founding.

I like big buts, I can’t deny.

The UHI won out over lots of competition. According to HHS, some 3,000 applications were received for a share on the $1 billion in 3-year grants available. Only 26 programs were included in the first batch of awards doled out.

An HHS spokesperson said that while “final determinations” were made by the HHS’s CMS Innovation Center Director, objective standards were used in selecting the awards and the White House was not “in any way” involved in the selection of grantees.

The awards have been politicized by the administration, which is touting them as part of its “We Can’t Wait” initiative to create jobs by executive action while the White House “waits” for the Republican-led House to act. The Innovation Center was established under Obamacare.

Last week’s award is not the first time money directed toward the UHI has raised red flags. In September, The Daily Caller reported that the private philanthropy of billionaire Obama supporter and donor George Kaiser had donated $10,000 to the UHI during 2009, the same year Kaiser secured the now-infamous $535 million government loan guarantee to failed solar panel maker Solyndra.

What’d Michelle pull down in that, ahem, job (which went unfilled after Obama won the nomination)? Wikipedia says $273k in 2006, and she started in 2005. At most, therefore, they might have been into her for a million. I’d say $5.9 million is a pretty decent payoff. Heck, Warren Buffett might even volunteer to pay more tax (including his back taxes) with a payoff like that.

PS: I will stipulate that the University of Chicago Medical School is probably pretty good. But as Ed Morrissey point out, what are the odds that theirs was one of 26 winners out of 3,000 application? Less than 100 to one is the answer. It’s like when mobster Whitey Bulger “won” the state lottery here years ago: some people have all the “luck”.

2 Comments »

  1. Carol said,

    May 15, 2012 @ 4:23 pm

    Leave Michelle ALONE! You talk like you think there’s something suspicious about that job not being filled after she left for Washington. Don’t you understand how special she is? There’s no one alive who could replace her? She’s the sun, the moon, the stars; she doth teach the torches to burn bright or something. No one could ever fill her skirts or wear one of those awful “boob-belts” (TM tomandlorenzo.com) the way she used to, no one. Don’t you know that all of the specialness that belongs to Barack just rubbed off of her like fairy dust? LEAVE MICHELLE ALONE!

    (As soon as I can grow my hair long enough to look “emo” I’ll be making a video.)

  2. Buck O'Fama said,

    May 15, 2012 @ 7:16 pm

    Yeah, Michelle is special. Let’s see Laura Bush wear designs from the House of Ipecac and get away with it.

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