Becerra's Wife Sits on Board of Nonprofit That Pushed His Nomination

HHS nom's wife paid tens of thousands of dollars by health care group

March 11, 2021

The wife of Joe Biden's controversial top health care nominee sits on the board of a medical advocacy group that promoted her husband's nomination without disclosing her position.

Carolina Reyes, the wife of California attorney general and nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, joined the board of directors of the California Health Care Foundation in 2017 shortly after Becerra's transition from the House of Representatives to the California attorney general's office. The foundation is a nonprofit with the stated mission of improving the health care system for Californians "with low incomes and those whose needs are not well served by the status quo."

The foundation stands to benefit from a Department of Health and Human Services charged with expanding the Affordable Care Act's health care policy. Individuals associated with the nonprofit increased their political donations significantly in 2020, contributing nearly $52,000 to elect Democratic candidates. The foundation has pushed several articles touting the benefits of the act and described the consequences of potentially overturning the law as "severe." A news service run by the nonprofit also published an article in December promoting Becerra's nomination without disclosing Reyes's position on the board of directors.

"President-elect Joe Biden has tapped California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to lead the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services," the article said. "Becerra, who would be the nation’s first Latino HHS secretary, has taken some ground-breaking positions on health care, especially since he became attorney general in 2017."

"He has sued the Trump administration dozens of times on health care, birth control, immigration, climate change and more, with California leading the defense of the Affordable Care Act before the U.S. Supreme Court," it continued. "Becerra has also won a major legal settlement from Sutter Health after accusing the nonprofit health care giant of using its market dominance in Northern California to illegally drive up prices."

The foundation did not respond to a request for comment.*

The organization announced that Reyes joined the board in May 2017. The press release mentioned Reyes's marriage to Becerra, who at the time had just become California's attorney general. She collected $30,000 from the organization in the 2018 fiscal year, according to the group's most recent IRS filings.

Becerra did not respond to a request for comment on whether Carolina would step down from the board if he is confirmed. The Biden White House also did not respond to a request for comment.

The vote on Becerra's nomination is expected to occur in the next week after two contentious Senate hearings. A Senate committee deadlocked on whether his nomination should be sent to the floor for a full vote, indicating that the vote on his confirmation will be extremely narrow.

Update: 12:14 03/11/2021 This article has been updated with a response from California Health Care Foundation 

A spokesman for the foundation says it gives no editorial input on what is published by California Healthline. More recent coverage of Becerra's nomination includes a disclaimer on his wife's work for the foundation. "We are completely independent and do not rely on any outside sources for revenue," the spokesman said.