This op-ed originally appeared in the Washington Examiner on February 7, 2019.
Wen’s seat was not cheap. Affiliates of her organization spent millions to support Pelosi’s quest for the majority in the House of Representatives and the ultimately unsuccessful efforts by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to retake the Senate.
In total, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and Planned Parenthood Votes — the arms of the Planned Parenthood Network allowed to engage in electoral politics under tax regulations — spent almost $6.5 million in outside spending supporting the election of Democrats to both houses of Congress in the 2018 midterm and special elections, according to FEC records compiled by OpenSecrets.
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., bore the brunt of Planned Parenthood’s attacks. The organization spent $1.85 million attacking him, more than any other House or Senate candidate in 2018. One suburban Philadelphia congressman was attacked more than Rick Scott or Mike Braun, freshman Republican senators who won their race and will now vote on judges with substantial power over abortion policy.
Planned Parenthood might have put Fitzpatrick so high on its hit list because of who his opponent was. Fitzpatrick faced centimillionaire heir and well-connected liberal donor Scott Wallace. Wallace has been a member of the left-wing donor organization known as the Democracy Alliance. Wallace’s foundation, the Wallace Global Fund, has contributed over $400,000 to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
But Wallace didn’t make it into Pelosi’s House. He lost in part because of Wallace’s radical left-wing stances on abortion and other issues. But other Planned Parenthood beneficiaries did win: Reps. Antonio Delgado, D-N.Y., Sean Casten, D-Ill., Angie Craig, D-Minn., and Dean Phillips, D-Minn., each benefited from over $100,000 in Planned Parenthood Votes expenditures targeting their rivals or supporting their own efforts.
Planned Parenthood didn’t spend large sums just to get face time with Speaker Pelosi or reward donors such as Wallace. Federal government programs channel $563.8 million to the Planned Parenthood network annually. To keep Pelosi and her allies in charge of the federal purse strings is to ensure the continued flow of taxpayer money to the organization and its affiliates.
Planned Parenthood also hopes to expand the scope of abortion law. Planned Parenthood-backed Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam recently sparked controversy when he defended a Planned Parenthood-backed repeal of certain limits on late-term abortions. Northam suggested that an infant delivered alive in a botched late-term abortion would “be kept comfortable” and “would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired.”
At the federal level, the Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funds from directly funding abortions except in extremely limited circumstances; Planned Parenthood would like to see these inconvenient restrictions removed.
So on “SOTU” night, full of kingly pomp and symbol, Leana Wen sat in Speaker Pelosi’s section. It was yet another symbol of a powerful special interest’s hold on a Congress it helped pay to elect.