An Obamacare enrollment group is coming under fire. A top official was caught on hidden camera allegedly cutting a deal to release personal information collected in Austin.
The meeting happened at a south Austin coffee shop just a few weeks ago. Christopher Tarango, the Austin based lead communications point person for Enroll America, seemed to know things would not be on the up and up.
"This conversation never happened," said Tarango on the tape.
The man Christopher Tarango was speaking to was Lawrence Jones. He's an undercover operative with a watch dog group called Project Veritas.
"And he tells me, you play by rule, number 17, or something like that, by any means necessary, I like you, you clearly play by the same rule, it's clearly not his first attempt to committee fraud," said jones during an interview in the studio of FOX 7 sister station KDFW.
In the video, Jones posed as the head of a political-action committee. The set up was focused on the claim that Jones wanted to help an Austin democratic candidate win in an upcoming runoff for a state House seat. To make that happen, Tarango is asked for information Enroll American collected in the district, it would be used by campaign workers.
"We can mobilize them if we had that list," urged Jones on the tape.
During his on camera interview Jones would not let Tarango off the hook.
"He knows it's illegal, that's the first thing, he is knowingly committing a crime," said Jones.
Tarango did voice concerns about the plan.
"If you can show me that it works then I'd be open to it, but again I still have my doubts," said Tarango.
Enroll America does not enroll people directly into the healthcare exchange website. Personal information is collected on "commitment cards" that are passed on to authorized Navigators and Application Counselors who log into the system.
"I did not ask him just for the list, I asked him could I purchase the list," said Jones.
As a non-partisan, non-profit, Enroll America is prohibited from sharing its data for political purposes.
"Remember these people are receiving millions of dollars from the government, for political purposes - this is all politics," said Jones.
Tarango's resume list jobs with some major Democrat Party campaigns and initiatives. He may be aware of the law- but he agreed to pitch the idea to a top official in his office.
'I don't know if he is willing to play ball … but I'm willing to have that conversation with him, yes," said Tarango.
As the two men sat in the coffee shop a plan started to form as to how to get the other Enroll America executive to join in.
"I know him well enough that, to feel like if we had a few beers, this would not be the craziest conversation that he's ever heard," said Tarango.
"And this wasn't a "Get you" question; this is how they do business," said Jones during his studio interview.
Jones, at one point during the hidden camera recording, wanted to make sure he would not be left out of the loop and would be provided the list of Northwest Austin residents if it was taken.
"Well yeah, If we can do it, we're gonna get the list," assured Tarango.
Early on in their discussion Jones confided his operation was being funded by a wealthy uncle. The name was to be a Red Flag in order to give Tarango an opportunity to back out. The name used for the fake uncle was that of Hollywood actor Danny Glover. Tarango never caught on. Jones hopes more people will start raising questions about those working with Enroll America.
"I think the bigger question was, should the American people be asking is, how long have they been getting away with this," said Jones.
The following statement was released by Justin Nisly, a spokesperson for Enroll America.
"Enroll America is a non-profit, non-partisan organization focused on helping Americans enroll in affordable health insurance, and we absolutely don't work with any partisan political organizations, campaigns, or candidates. What's more, we bar the use of our resources for partisan activity, and have extensive safeguards on all of our data to make sure it is used for education and enrollment purposes. We're fully compliant with all relevant laws and regulations, and there is absolutely no credible evidence to suggest otherwise. Though the video from Project Veritas does not show any violations of our non-profit status, even the suggestion by any of our staff that such activity could occur is inappropriate. We're reviewing those statements, and will take appropriate action."
Tarango's Social Media sites have been pulled down, but his job status with Enroll America remains unclear.