Ethics and PP’s campaign cash

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Ethics and PP's campaign cash

Fol­low­ing the money can be an intrigu­ing polit­i­cal exer­cise. Take one Planned Par­ent­hood affiliate’s polit­i­cal expen­di­tures, for exam­ple. When a can­di­date ben­e­fits from PP expen­di­tures and later has to vote on a PP con­tract, when does business-​as-​usual becomes a mat­ter of eth­i­cal concern?

Dar­lene Paw­lik wants to find out. She’s check­ing things out close to her New Hamp­shire home, and she has filed a com­plaint with the Exec­u­tive Branch Ethics Com­mit­tee against Gov­er­nor Mag­gie Has­san and Exec­u­tive Coun­cilor Colin Van Ostern. The com­plaint might be heard for­mally at the committee’s next meet­ing, sched­uled for August 3.

Paw­lik was prompted to act by a June 2016 “do-​over” vote by the state’s Exec­u­tive Coun­cil that sent “fam­ily plan­ning” money to Planned Par­ent­hood of North­ern New Eng­land only months after the same Coun­cil turned down a sim­i­lar PPNNE con­tract pro­posal. It’s unusual for a con­tract denied in a fis­cal year to be re-​introduced and approved in sub­stan­tially the same terms later in the same fis­cal year, but that’s what the Exec­u­tive Coun­cil did with its 32 vote on June 29.

A bit of back­ground: PPNNE is the region’s largest abor­tion provider, although the New Hamp­shire con­tracts are for “fam­ily plan­ning” ser­vices and are not meant to be used for abor­tions. (Thereby hangs a tale for another day.) The denial of the orig­i­nal con­tract hardly de-​funded PPNNE, how­ever much the denial gave PP sup­port­ers the vapors. PPNNE’s bud­get is $20 mil­lion a year. The orig­i­nal con­tract was for $638,000; the do-​over con­tract was for a lit­tle less than that. By com­par­i­son, PPNNE spent $1.5 mil­lion on “pub­lic pol­icy” in 2014. That doesn’t count cam­paign dona­tions and inde­pen­dent cam­paign expen­di­tures by PPNNE’s polit­i­cal arm.

Back to the do-​over vote. The more recent con­tract passed because exec­u­tive coun­cilor and GOP can­di­date for gov­er­nor Chris Sununu switched his vote from 2015. PPNNE’s Action Fund stayed out of Sununu’s race in the 2014 elec­tion. On the other hand, the cam­paigns of Gov­er­nor Has­san and Coun­cilor Van Ostern were the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of PP dona­tions. Has­san, a Demo­c­rat who is run­ning for U.S. Sen­ate, named a pro-​PP com­mis­sioner of health and human ser­vices ear­lier this year who promised dur­ing his con­fir­ma­tion process that he would “bring back” the PP con­tract. Van Ostern was the chief cheer­leader for PP on the Coun­cil dur­ing the recent recon­sid­er­a­tion vote. He is a Demo­c­ra­tic can­di­date for governor.

In her ethics com­plaint, Paw­lik alleges that as recip­i­ents of PP dona­tions, Has­san and Van Ostern should have recused them­selves from any action on con­tracts with PPNNE. The gov­er­nor has no vote on the Exec­u­tive Coun­cil, but she pre­sides at Coun­cil meet­ings and was more than happy in that capac­ity to speak in PP’s favor at the June meet­ing before the con­tract vote was taken.

It’s hardly news that polit­i­cal com­mit­tees get involved in elec­tions, and it’s hardly news that gov­ern­ments do busi­ness with enti­ties asso­ci­ated with those committees.What’s news is that a con­cerned cit­i­zen is tak­ing action to clar­ify how much back-​scratching is too much. The same-​fiscal-​year recon­sid­er­a­tion of a rejected con­tract begs for fur­ther scrutiny.

The New Hamp­shire Union Leader quoted PPNNE’s vice-​president for pub­lic pol­icy as say­ing “PPNNE and its Polit­i­cal Action Fund are ‘sep­a­rate and dis­tinct orga­ni­za­tions with dif­fer­ent fund­ing, dif­fer­ent activ­i­ties and dif­fer­ent tax sta­tus.’” Presto: no con­flict of inter­est, says PP.

Look again, says Dar­lene Pawlik.

She is appeal­ing to an Ethics Com­mit­tee that is under most New Hamp­shire res­i­dents’ radar. The Com­mit­tee itself has been mori­bund for sev­eral months, with its three most recent sched­uled meet­ings can­celled. There’s a meet­ing sched­uled for August 3, though, and we know now that at least one com­plaint should be get­ting a hearing.

Stay tuned.

[cap­tion id=“attachment_86476” align=“aligncenter” width=“300”]Ellen Kolb writes about the life issues at http://leavenfortheloaf.com. When she's not writing, she's hiking in New Hampshire. Ellen Kolb writes about the life issues at Leaven for the Loaf. When she’s not writ­ing, she’s hik­ing in New Hampshire.[/caption]

A note from DaT­e­chGuy: I hope you enjoyed Ellen’s piece (so does Ellen!). Remem­ber we will be judg­ing the entries in Da Mag­nif­i­cent try­outs by hits both to their post and to DaTip­Jar. So if you like Ellen’s work please con­sider shar­ing this post, and if you hit DaTip­jar because of it don’t for­get to men­tion Ellen’s post is the rea­son you did so.




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Following the money can be an intriguing political exercise. Take one Planned Parenthood affiliate’s political expenditures, for example. When a candidate benefits from PP expenditures and later has to vote on a PP contract, when does business-as-usual becomes a matter of ethical concern?

Darlene Pawlik wants to find out. She’s checking things out close to her New Hampshire home, and she has filed a complaint with the Executive Branch Ethics Committee against Governor Maggie Hassan and Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern. The complaint might be heard formally at the committee’s next meeting, scheduled for August 3.

Pawlik was prompted to act by a June 2016 “do-over” vote by the state’s Executive Council that sent “family planning” money to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England only months after the same Council turned down a similar PPNNE contract proposal. It’s unusual for a contract denied in a fiscal year to be re-introduced and approved in substantially the same terms later in the same fiscal year, but that’s what the Executive Council did with its 3-2 vote on June 29.

A bit of background: PPNNE is the region’s largest abortion provider, although the New Hampshire contracts are for “family planning” services and are not meant to be used for abortions. (Thereby hangs a tale for another day.)  The denial of the original contract hardly de-funded PPNNE, however much the denial gave PP supporters the vapors. PPNNE’s budget is $20 million a year. The original contract was for $638,000; the do-over contract was for a little less than that. By comparison, PPNNE spent $1.5 million on “public policy” in 2014. That doesn’t count campaign donations and independent campaign expenditures by PPNNE’s political arm.

Back to the do-over vote. The more recent contract passed because executive councilor and GOP candidate for governor Chris Sununu switched his vote from 2015. PPNNE’s Action Fund stayed out of Sununu’s race in the 2014 election.  On the other hand, the campaigns of Governor Hassan and Councilor Van Ostern were the beneficiaries of PP donations. Hassan, a Democrat who is running for U.S. Senate, named a pro-PP commissioner of health and human services earlier this year who promised during his confirmation process that he would “bring back” the PP contract. Van Ostern was the chief cheerleader for PP on the Council during the recent reconsideration vote. He is a Democratic candidate for governor.

In her ethics complaint, Pawlik alleges that as recipients of PP donations, Hassan and Van Ostern should have recused themselves from any action on contracts with PPNNE. The governor has no vote on the Executive Council, but she presides at Council meetings and was more than happy in that capacity to speak in PP’s favor at the June meeting before the contract vote was taken.

It’s hardly news that political committees get involved in elections, and it’s hardly news that governments do business with entities associated with those committees.What’s news is that a concerned citizen is taking action to clarify how much back-scratching is too much. The same-fiscal-year reconsideration of a rejected contract begs for further scrutiny.

The New Hampshire Union Leader quoted PPNNE’s vice-president for public policy as saying “PPNNE and its Political Action Fund are ‘separate and distinct organizations with different funding, different activities and different tax status.’” Presto: no conflict of interest, says PP.

Look again, says Darlene Pawlik.

She is appealing to an Ethics Committee that is under most New Hampshire residents’ radar. The Committee itself has been moribund for several months, with its three most recent scheduled meetings cancelled. There’s a meeting scheduled for August 3, though, and we know now that at least one complaint should be getting a hearing.

Stay tuned.

Ellen Kolb writes about the life issues at http://leavenfortheloaf.com. When she's not writing, she's hiking in New Hampshire.
Ellen Kolb writes about the life issues at Leaven for the Loaf. When she’s not writing, she’s hiking in New Hampshire.

A note from DaTechGuy: I hope you enjoyed Ellen’s piece (so does Ellen!). Remember we will be judging the entries in Da Magnificent tryouts by hits both to their post and to DaTipJar. So if you like Ellen’s work please consider sharing this post, and if you hit DaTipjar because of it don’t forget to mention Ellen’s post is the reason you did so.




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