By Guy Page
Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan and staff and the Vermont Planned Parenthood affiliate engaged in “taxpayer supported collusion” including holding non-public strategy meetings at the AG office in Montpelier where they collaborated on state legislation and national litigation, Republican gubernatorial candidate John Klar alleged Friday.
“It is as though Planned Parenthood had the Attorney General’s Office on retainer,” Klar said.
Planned Parenthood in fact has provided unlawful financial and campaign benefit to Donovan, in violation of Vermont state campaign finance law, Vermont Right to Life asserts in a complaint submitted to the Vermont Attorney General’s Office.
According to state law, an Independent Expenditures (IE) PAC “conducts its activities entirely independent of candidates; does not give contributions to candidates, political committees, or political parties; does not make related expenditures; and is not closely related to a political party or to a political committee that makes contributions to candidates or makes related expenditures.” Yet, Right to Life complains, Planned Parenthood improperly used its Vermont Action Fund Independent Expenditures (“IE”) PAC to:
- publicly endorse Donovan, Windham Sen. Becca Balint, and Burlington Rep. Jill Krowinski, a former Planned Parenthood of Northern New England state policy executive.
- accept a contribution from candidate David Zuckerman, who was also endorsed by the PP VAF IE PAC.
- hold its annual “Sex, Politics and Cocktails” fundraiser in October 2019, honoring Donovan was honored at the event. The presentation of the award was a key aspect of the fundraising event, was promoted as a reason to attend the fundraiser, and thereby garnered financial support for the PAC.
- receive contributions, during the 2018 election cycle, in excess of the legal limit for non-IE PACs. They received a total of $20,000 from Elizabeth Steele and $20,000 from Jake and Donna Carpenter..
As the Attorney General’s Office is both the object and arbiter of the Right to Life complaint, it is unclear whether Donovan or the office will recuse itself and ask another government body to investigate.
“This complaint involves the Attorney General. A dozen staff members from the AG’s office assisted Lucy Leriche and Planned Parenthood in formulating strategy around legislative proposals and public relations,” Sharon Toborg said.
“I am therefore very concerned that this complaint will not be fairly investigated by the Attorney General’s office,” Toborg added in her complaint. “I understand that campaign finance complaints are referred to a committee for investigation. I would like to know who is on that committee, and what steps will be taken to insure that those investigating this matter are impartial.”
Vermont Daily’s request for comment by the Vermont Attorney General’s office has not yet been answered.
The following is Klar’s August 7 summary of the alleged AG/PP collusion:
Klar said he has reviewed hundreds of pages of the documents obtained (for fees of $3,244.28) in response to his request to the Vermont Attorney General’s Office for its email records with Planned Parenthood.
Attorney Klar summarized his initial review of these communications between Vermont’s chief law enforcement officer, his staff, legislators and Planned Parenthood:
“Vermont is surely first in the nation with this degree of collaboration between it’s Attorney General and a special interest organization. So far this correspondence involves some 12 members from the AG’s Office, three prominent Planned Parenthood employees, three legislators, as well as a representative from the Office of the Speaker of the House. Planned Parenthood and staff from the Attorney General’s Office regularly met as the “Protecting Abortion Rights Working Group” at the Attorney General’s offices, and coordinated the social media, twitter, and other resources of both organizations to advance shared political objectives relating to abortion legislation.
Through this taxpayer-supported collusion, Planned Parenthood appears to have been directly involved in the drafting of legislation, as well as allocating Vermont AG staff resources in national litigation to advance Planned Parenthood’s national efforts. Resources of the Office of Legislative Council were also employed.
Planned Parenthood had privileged access to the Vermont Attorney General’s website, including drafting content and tracking visits to a page set up to generate opposition to new rules on Title X. Planned Parenthood proposed and contributed content for the Vermont Attorney General to issue in Press Releases; in turn the Attorney General’s Office solicited quotes from Planned Parenthood to incorporate into Press Releases. The documents also reveal that the Vermont Attorney General’s Office invested a massive amount of time and resources attending Legislative Committee sessions to advance abortion ‘rights’ legislation.
It is as though Planned Parenthood had the Attorney General’s Office on retainer. Attorney General TJ Donovan’s use of public resources for the benefit of his favored special interest group is inappropriate.”
Read more of Guy Page’s reports. Vermont Daily is sponsored by True North Media.