Tiller campaign cash greases political wheels

by Joe Bollig
joe.bollig@theleaven.org

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Wichita abortionist Dr. George Tiller is known to sport a button that says, “Attitude is Everything.”

Well, not everything. When it comes to winning political campaigns and influencing people, he knows that there’s nothing that speaks louder to a politician than a hefty infusion of cash.

Tiller’s largesse for pro-choice politicians has been reported in Kansas newspapers over the past few political cycles.

A June 23, 2007, story by Associated Press reporter John Hanna revealed, for instance, that Tiller and his political action committee — ProKanDo — spent tens of thousands of dollars in elections since its founding in 2002.

In his story, Hanna wrote: “ProKanDo was the most generous in state races in 2002, giving more than $271,000 to candidates, party committees and other PACs — more than double the second-ranked Kansas Contractors Association.”

Since then, Tiller and his PAC have dropped off the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission’s top 20 list of donors, but that doesn’t mean that he has stopped giving. Rather, he has merely switched the way he gives.

In that same June 2007 story, Hanna wrote how Tiller shifted his money to polling and phone banks, the creation of “sister” entities, and to funneling money to pro-choice candidates through other more socially acceptable PACs.

In these ways, the stigma of receiving abortion “blood money” is erased and the true extent of his giving is hidden.

An example was reported in the article “Back-door cash boosted Biggs,” in the July 31, 2003, Lawrence Journal-World.

Tiller was working furiously to oppose Kansas legislator Phill Kline, who was running against Chris Biggs for the office of Kansas attorney general. According to the Journal-World story, Tiller gave $153,000 to ProKanDo four days before the 2002 election. ProKanDo gave the same amount to the short-lived Kansans for Democratic Leadership PAC, which, in turn, spent the money on advertising to support Biggs.

No one knew about the cash infusion at the time, because Kansas’ campaign reporting requirements didn’t require disclosure until much later.

However, Overland Park political activist and blogger Earl F. Glynn, who operates the Web log kansasmeadowlark. com, claims the amount spent by Tiller in the 2002 cycle for Biggs was much larger than the reported $153,000. He claims it was above $300,000 — and possibly more.

Whatever the exact figure, Tiller and ProKanDo were back in 2006, and this time they spent tens of thousands to unseat Kline and install his rival, Paul Morrison, in the Kansas attorney general’s seat. Again, ProKanDo gave generously to a second, short-lived entity with close ProKanDo ties — this time the non-profit Kansans for Consumer Privacy Protection. This entity produced the notorious “Snoop Dog” mailings that slammed Kline.

Tiller and his PAC have also given generously to keep pro-choice politicians in the governor’s mansion.

While it’s true that Tiller and ProKanDo have not given directly to gubernatorial campaigns for Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, it’s also true that he has given generously to Sebelius through a good part of her political career, according the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission.

Recently, Glynn uncovered campaigning finance records that show Sebelius transferred contributions — including Tiller money — from her insurance commissioner account to her 2002 gubernatorial campaign account.

For instance, between 1994 and 2001 Tiller, his wife, his clinic, and an earlier PAC of his gave more than $15,000 to Sebelius. Between 2000 and 2002, Tiller and his clinic gave $23,000 to Sebelius’ Blue Stem Fund PAC.

Also, there’s evidence to suggest that Tiller has routed funds through other PACs to benefit Sebelius, just as he did for Biggs and Morrison. Tiller boasted in a Nov. 15, 2002, ProKanDo fundraising letter that his PACs’ activities “were instrumental in ensuring Kathleen Sebelius’ victory.”

Tiller and ProKanDo have had their missteps, however. In November 2008, the PAC was fined $2,500 for failing to properly identify donors as required by campaign finance law.

Many pro-life advocates believe that they now have the smoking gun that shows the close, mutually supportive relationship between Tiller and Gov. Sebelius.

On April 9, 2007, the governor hosted a dinner for Tiller, fellow abortionists LeRoy Carhart, Shelly Sella and Susan Robinson, and 20 Tiller clinic staffers. The dinner became known when the pro-life protest organization Operation Rescue obtained photos of the dinner, and publicized them.

The governor’s spokesperson said the dinner was purchased by Tiller at an annual fundraising dinner held by the Greater Kansas City Women’s Political Caucus. Sebelius supports the GKCWPC, which in turn, only supports pro-choice politicians.

Kathy Ostrowski, senior lobbyist and researcher for Kansans for Life, disputed this explanation and said it was really a recognition dinner held by Sebelius for Tiller.

In general, pro-life activists question why the GKCWPC didn’t reimburse the state for the dinner until May 2008 and why there is a gap between the time when Tiller allegedly purchased the dinner in 2005 and when it was held in 2007. To them, it simply doesn’t pass the smell test.

The real clincher, they say, is a photo from the dinner that shows the governor pointing to Tiller as she holds a T-shirt that says, “Trifecta: Sebelius, Parkinson, and Morrison,” which refers to the 2006 election victories of the governor, the lieutenant governor, and the attorney general.

For pro-life advocates, another galling aspect of the dinner is the fact that, at the time, Tiller was under investigation for performing illegal late-term abortions.

The true nature of the dinner will continue to be argued about. And the true extent of Tiller’s political giving may never be known, thanks to the labyrinthine routes of political funding and the deficiencies of campaign contribution reporting.

This much is true, however. Regardless of the outcome of the March trial, Tiller has left his indelible mark on the laws and political landscape of Kansas.

 

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