February 13, 2018
Stop the presses. Democrat Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) has just uncovered the scandal of the century: A conservative administration is consulting with conservative experts! Apparently, this is news to the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, who is outraged that a president would dare to take advice from ideologically-compatible groups. (No one is quite sure where Cummings was from 2009-2016, when Barack Obama should have put half of the Left's interest groups on the official government payroll.)
Still, Cummings is so sure that voters will be shocked that he's filed an official complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for soliciting input on a legal document from a conservative legal group: Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). Insisting that a "whistleblower" inside HHS has exposed some shameful collaboration, he fired off a letter to HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan warning that he may investigate. In particular, he's worried about ADF's advice on President's Trump's latest guidance that makes it easier for states to defund Planned Parenthood. As is sometimes the practice of government agencies, they sought outside counsel from a likeminded individuals and group. There's nothing immoral, controversial or unusual about it.
Even so, Cummings, whose previous president spent eight years doing the bidding of George Soros and other far-Left lobbyists, is raising a stink about ADF's involvement, saying it points to a sinister plot of conservatives to infiltrate the government. "The documents provided by the whistleblower raise serious concerns about whether the Trump administration is now taking orders from an extreme right-wing interest group that is trying to deny American citizens the ability to exercise their right to obtain family planning services from the provider of their choice, which is guaranteed by federal statute."
If it weren't so astounded, ADF might have been amused. After all, they fired back, it's "common practice for constitutional attorneys to be consulted regarding constitutional matters." What should be common practice, the group went on, "is refusing to award Americans' hard-earned tax dollars to scandal-ridden Medicaid providers. HHS's recent guidance brings the agency back into conformity with decades of federal court precedent and empowers state legislatures to allocate Medicaid funding to women's health providers not entangled in alleged fraud and abuse." If you're looking for the real outrage, that's it.
The conservative movement's influence on a conservative administration isn't a smoking gun – or even a Nerf one. America just emerged from eight years of liberals trading influence from the highest posts in government. Perhaps Cummings has forgotten the suspicious ties of the Obama administration that at best tested the law (and at worst broke it). Over his two terms, investigations uncovered plenty of evidence of wrongdoing from the underground networks between the White House and radical groups. There was the IRS official who leaked confidential donor information to the Human Rights Campaign to smear conservatives. (Disclosing those names, incidentally, was a felony.) Or the shady ties from Google to the Obama State Department, where Hillary Clinton's emails "show that Jared Cohen, head of Google Jigsaw, has been acting as a secret agent for the state department, turning the world's most powerful tech company into a private arm of the U.S. intelligence services."
What about George Soros's potentially criminal ties to USAID money, where it helped fund aggressive State Department tactics in places like Hungary or Macdeonia? Then there's the question of the Southern Poverty Law Center, and its obvious collusion with the Obama Department of Justice and FBI to drive conservative organizations underground – until enough people complained about the partnership. Or the SPLC's influence at the Defense Department, where trainings were tailor-made for the group's "extremist hate list" until DOD was exposed and forced to sever ties?
Planned Parenthood's power in the Obama administration was obvious from the president's top-level hires (in – irony alert -- HHS) to Cecile Richards's regular meetings and fundraisers with the First Family. LGBT activists were so embedded in the Obama administration that their sex-ed and "anti-bullying" campaigns became part of the official White House education curriculum, despite evidence that both were doing more harm to kids than good. Where was Cummings's indignation then?
The story here is that there is no story. This isn't about impropriety on the part of ADF or HHS. It's about liberals like Cummings identifying the groups that help shape the conservative agenda -- and trying to silence them. The merits of Trump's policy on Planned Parenthood and state sovereignty were obvious long before ADF's involvement. Local legislators should have the authority to carry out the will of voters in their states – especially when it comes to taxpayer dollars. There are plenty of organizations who can provide safer and more comprehensive health care than a group currently under FBI investigation. Surely, Americans can find a better recipient of their hard-earned money than Planned Parenthood, a group more concerned with destroying innocent lives than caring for them. At the very least, they should have the freedom to try.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.