Notes on Executive Council, PP, & retroactive funding (again)

New Hampshire Executive Council chamber (nh.gov photo)
New Hampshire Executive Council chamber (nh.gov photo)

Pro-life New Hampshire readers have probably already seen the recent alert from New Hampshire Right to Life, warning of an upcoming vote by the Executive Council that might send funds to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, retroactive to what would have been the starting date of the contract that the Council rejected last August. Call your Councilor, says NHRTL, and I second that.

A few thoughts, in no particular order, with links to relevant posts:


The next Executive Council meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 29 at 10 a.m. at the State House. The agenda for the meeting won’t be posted publicly until just a few days in advance, at which time we’ll find out if the retroactive funding is indeed coming up for a vote. Here is a link to the web page where the agenda will be posted; when you see “June 29” listed as a meeting date, there will be a link to the agenda.

Look up your district here and your Councilor’s contact information here.

This threatens to be a dreary re-run of bygone days. From 2013: PPNNE to get retroactive $$ from state? and Retroactivity, or how not to de-fund an abortion provider.

Abortion isn’t health care, but embedding abortion within authentic health care for women has proven to be a lucrative business model. The Executive Councilors are in a good position to disrupt that model.

Did the Council “de-fund” PP last August? Only if you think a $20 million organization can be de-funded by denying it a $638,000 two-year contract. 

Recall that Councilors Joe Kenney, Chris Sununu, and Dave Wheeler voted to reject the PP contract last August. At that meeting, Kenney and Sununu both cited the Center for Medical Progress videos as a factor in their vote. Those videos feature PP employees discussing trafficking in body parts, with a PP medical professional describing her willingness to alter abortion procedures not to provide the best care to women but to extract the most lucrative intact fetal organs. 

I was at the August 2015 meeting and heard the discussion that preceded the vote. Sununu said something that got short shrift from some of his colleagues and Governor Hassan: “I’m pro-choice and I support Planned Parenthood, but in my district, women have no [other] choice.” From my report on the meeting: “He unsuccessfully urged Hassan and his fellow Councilors to ‘take a step back’ and support a study of health care options in Sununu’s southeastern New Hampshire district. He said he got calls from constituents who wanted family planning services but not at Planned Parenthood.

Those constituents need to get on the phone again. Sununu voted in favor of a PPNNE contract in 2011, and against one in 2015. A swing vote, for sure. 

Oh, the (in)humanity: In August, Councilor Chris Pappas said it would be inhumane to deny PP its contract. He then expressed reservations about the CMP videos. It was unclear whether he had watched the videos or whether he might flag any part of the content “inhumane.”

Dismissing his colleagues’ concerns about the CMP videos, Councilor Colin Van Ostern (now seeking the Democratic nomination for Governor) called opposition to the August contract “ideology” and the CMP videos “heavily edited.” He has had ten months since then to view the unedited videos, still available online.

Governor Hassan, in an unguarded (but on-the-record) moment at the August meeting, said before the PP contract vote, “I’m sure Planned Parenthood would review its operations if this was voted down.” When the contract was voted down a few minutes later, Hassan’s team was ready with a blistering press release: “It is clear that today’s vote is the result of an ideological and political attack against Planned Parenthood and a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions …The council’s vote to defund Planned Parenthood will hurt the health and economic well-being of thousands of Granite Staters.” No mention there of PP reviewing its operations. Likewise, there was no mention of how the health and economic well-being of thousands of Granite Staters could be hurt by removing only $319,000 from PPNNE’s $20 million annual budget. (Remember, the denied contract was for $638,000 over two years.)

Note that no one on the Council intends to retire from public office this year.

Councilor Colin Van Ostern, a Democrat, is running for Governor. So is Chris Sununu, a Republican.

Councilors Joe Kenney (R), Chris Pappas (D), and Dave Wheeler (R) are running to keep their Council seats.

As for Governor Maggie Hassan (D), she is running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Kelly Ayotte.

 

Remember this about Dave Wheeler

Dave Wheeler is running for New Hampshire’s Executive Council in district 5, a seat he has held before. He has a primary opponent whom I haven’t met and about whom I know little. I’m not writing today to make comparisons. This is about Dave.

I’ve known him for many years, going back to the days when he was a state rep from Milford. I could tell you about how he helped me long ago when I had to learn in a hurry how to deal with a state agency. I could tell you how when you elect him, you get his wife Joy as a bonus – just as tart and blunt and dedicated to the community as her husband. I could recommend that you check out the Wheelers’ Miracle Acres Farm for your next Christmas tree.

Another time, maybe, but not now. I want to make sure you remember one thing in particular that he did last time the voters of district 5 sent him to Concord: he stood up to Planned Parenthood. With two of his colleagues, he denied PP a Title X family-planning contract in 2011. (Ten other Title X contracts were approved that day, all with contractors who didn’t double as abortion providers.) It wasn’t Dave Wheeler’s first pro-life vote, but it was a particularly emphatic one. As a result, PP made a priority of hammering him in the 2012 election. He lost the seat, 52.5%-47.5%.

From a 2011 event (l-r): Kevin Smith, Ray Wieczorek, Dan St. Hilaire, Dave Wheeler, Ellen Kolb (photo by Matthew Lomanno, www.matthewlomanno.com)
From a 2011 event (l-r): Kevin Smith of Cornerstone; executive councilors Ray Wieczorek, Dan St. Hilaire, & Dave Wheeler; Ellen Kolb (photo by Matthew Lomanno, www.matthewlomanno.com)

With his vote on the PP contract, Dave was doing what he was elected to do: read the fine print, ask questions, look hard at private agencies that rely on an uninterrupted flow of taxpayer dollars. It’s sad that the councilors elected in 2012 went back to business with New Hampshire’s premier abortion provider when the next round of Title X contracts came up in 2013.

The photo in this post is from 2011, taken at an event related to my day job. Dave is the tall gentleman towards the right. At the event, it was my privilege to present an award to the councilors who rejected that PP contract.  Two of them have since retired. Only Dave Wheeler is left in the arena. Here’s an excerpt from what I said that evening as I made the presentation. Those councilors set a high bar for their successors. Think about this when you look at candidates for the Executive Council.

One morning in June 2011, I was in the Senate gallery awaiting a vote on the parental notification bill when someone quietly advised me that the Executive Council, by a vote of 3-2, had just rejected a $1.2 million contract with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. This was a shock to me, because I knew this had always been a routine Title Ten contract. Regrettably, the state has done business with PP for years.

With an annual budget of $18 million, PPNNE is New Hampshire’s principal abortion provider. When asked at a public hearing [in 2011] if they’d forgo providing abortion services as a condition to receive public funding, their answer was an emphatic “no.” Despite claims by PP that government funding is vital to providing certain essential services, according to their own 2009 annual report PPNNE spends over $3 million on administration and general costs, $597,000 on marketing and $714,000 on public policy which includes lobbyists. After the council vote, PP went so far as to launch a publicity campaign attacking the three councilors who voted down the contract. Pink t-shirts and lawn signs appeared, saying “I Stand With PP,” paid for by PP.

Planned Parenthood chose not to divert one penny from administration, marketing or public policy to compensate for the loss of taxpayer funds. When it came down to a choice between providing health care and distributing pink lawn signs, they went with the lawn signs.That was not a political decision forced by any executive councilor. That was a PP policy decision that ill befits a state contractor.

It’s worth noting that ten other Title Ten contracts were approved the same day PP’s was rejected – hardly the action of a council determined to deny health care to anyone. These contracts usually fly under the radar for most of us. It’s to their credit that these three councilors didn’t let that happen.

Now in 2014, Dave Wheeler is back. It’ll take more than a bunch of pink lawn signs to scare him off. I wonder if that’s true about the other candidates on the ballot.