At least seven U.S. communities that received stimulus money as part of a  $373 million government program to educate Americans about obesity and tobacco  use potentially violated federal law by using the funds to lobby for higher  taxes and new local laws, according to a report by the nonpartisan group Cause  of Action.

The findings are part of a 19-month investigation by the nonprofit group on  the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Communities Putting Prevention  to Work Program.”

Beyond potentially breaking federal law, the communities also appear to have  violated CDC guidelines, according to the 36-page report titled “How the Centers  for Disease Control and Prevention’s … Grant Program Became a Front for  Lobbying, Government Propaganda and Cronyism.”

Congressional hearings in 2011 and follow-up letters to Health and Human  Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius addressed a potential violation in a South  Carolina community.

However, the April 16 report found seven other potential violations and  states the CDC’s one recorded violation “was worse than disclosed,” according to  the group, whose stated mission is to expose how “government is playing politics  in its use of taxpayer dollars.”

The CDC could not respond Sunday to a request for comment.

The group identifies five of the states in which the violations allegedly  occurred — Arizona, Alabama, Florida, Georgia and California.

The findings are based on such information as internal emails, meeting notes  and CDC grant applications that “blatantly show systemic corruption and use of  taxpayer dollars for lobbying,” according to the report.

In one example, California’s Santa Clara County Public Health Department  allegedly used taxpayer money to hire a tobacco-retail-license coordinator to  lobby for a workplace smoking ordinance and also used program funds to support a  state-wide tobacco tax increase.

In the South Carolina case, the CDC found the state violated rules by using  program money to plan a press conference to lobby a city council to support a  pending, clean-indoor-air ordinance with no exemptions.

The group is asking for further investigation of the program and says the  request is timely, considering the scheduled release of $2 billion annually,  starting in 2015, for a similar program under President Obama’s Patient  Protection and Affordable Care Act

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