SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Pro-life leaders are calling upon California Attorney General Kamala Harris to resign after her office launched what they believe was a politically motivated raid on the apartment of David Daleiden, the activist who conducted last year’s controversial undercover investigation of Planned Parenthood.
Officials noted that Harris, a Democrat who is running for the U.S. Senate, has received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Planned Parenthood and other abortion-rights promoters and that her campaign website includes a petition for people to show support for the country’s largest abortion provider.
“This is corruption at the very core,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, which led a large rally on April 13 outside Harris’ Sacramento offices intended to cast a negative spotlight on the attorney general.
“We want her to resign,” Hawkins told the Register. “We want to shed light that this is obviously a corrupt politician here. This is someone we need to stand up against.”
A spokeswoman for Harris’ office told the Register that she could not comment on a pending investigation. The attorney general’s senatorial campaign did not return a message seeking comment.
The Los Angeles Times reported on April 5 that the state agents seized multiple computers, hard drives and materials from Planned Parenthood conferences that Daleiden covertly attended. The Times said the agents also seized California driver’s licenses with fake names that Daleiden and his associate, Sandra Merritt, used during meetings with Planned Parenthood officials.
The April 5 raid surprised Daleiden and his legal team. Thomas Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society, told the Register that Daleiden was on the phone with his attorney when 11 agents from Harris’ office entered the residence and announced they were executing a search warrant for records.
“This kind of came out of left field. It was totally uncalled for,” said Brejcha, adding that Daleiden’s legal team had been in contact with the attorney general’s office, which he said had given Daleiden an extended deadline of late April to hand over corporate and tax documents.
The timing of the raid, Brejcha said, was suspicious, given that, just a few days earlier, an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times had criticized Harris for not taking action against Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress.
“The whole thing just reeks of political expediency,” Brejcha said. “It’s just a way of trying to grab a headline.”
The Texas Charges
Daleiden and Merritt are both facing criminal charges in Texas, stemming from their undercover investigation of a Planned Parenthood facility in the Lone Star state. Both are charged with tampering with a governmental record, a felony. Daleiden is also charged with the purchase and sale of human organs, a misdemeanor.
On April 12, Daleiden’s attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the indictments, arguing irregularities related to the acquisition of evidence in the case and improper disclosure of secret grand-jury matters that the attorneys say compromised Daleiden’s legal rights.
“The irregularities in the case were manifold,” attorney Peter Breen said in a prepared statement. “The abuses occurring during and after the grand jury’s proceedings were in gross violation of Mr. Daleiden’s right to due process under the Texas Constitution as well as his statutory rights.”
The Texas grand jury returned indictments against Daleiden and Merritt after it had been originally convened in September 2015 to hear evidence against Planned Parenthood’s alleged trafficking of fetal body parts and altering of abortion methods to yield more profitable “specimens,” which Daleiden’s undercover investigation claimed to prove.
Daleiden and his attorneys criticized the grand jury in Harris County, Texas, for casting a blind eye at Planned Parenthood. On the Center for Medical Progress’ Facebook page, Daleiden also called out the California attorney general for showing favoritism to Planned Parenthood.
“Ironically, while seizing my First Amendment work product, they ignored documents showing the illicit scheme between StemExpress and Planned Parenthood,” said Daleiden, referring to a tissue-procurement company that cut ties with Planned Parenthood after the CMP investigation began stirring controversy.
Said Daleiden, “This is no surprise — Planned Parenthood’s bought-and-paid-for AG has steadfastly refused to enforce the law against the baby-body-parts traffickers in our state, or even investigate them — while at the same time doing their bidding to harass and intimidate citizen journalists.”
Daleiden vowed, “We will pursue all remedies to vindicate our First Amendment right.”
Alexandra Snyder, executive director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation, a California-based organization that represents Daleiden in three civil cases filed against him by Planned Parenthood, StemExpress and the National Abortion Federation, said Harris has decided that “her loyalty to Planned Parenthood requires her to turn a blind eye” to that organization’s activities.
“This attorney general’s office has instead been investigating the Center for Medical Progress. They had been looking into them regarding their tax-exempt status, based on their point of view, which I think is appalling,” Snyder told the Register, adding that Harris’ office does not investigate the Humane Society when that organization conducts undercover video investigations.
“This is pure discrimination on the basis of somebody’s point of view,” Snyder said.
Harris, who is running for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat to succeed longtime abortion-rights champion Barbara Boxer, has made clear her support for legal abortion. Her campaign website declares Harris to be a “champion for a woman’s right to choose” who will defend Roe v. Wade and “lead the charge for women’s reproductive rights.”
Her campaign website also includes a petition to “defend Planned Parenthood” and resist efforts to strip the organization’s federal funding.
“Harris can’t even pretend to be objective in this case,” Lila Rose, president of Live Action, said in a prepared statement.
Operation Rescue has also posted campaign-contribution records that indicate that Harris has received $81,000 for her attorney general and senatorial campaigns from Planned Parenthood affiliates and other abortion promoters. Pro-life leaders point to Harris’ political ties with the abortion lobby as evidence of why her office is targeting Daleiden.
“Planned Parenthood has deep pockets, political connections, and they want to make an example of [Daleiden],” said Hawkins, of Students for Life of America, who added that the raid on Daleiden’s apartment and the subsequent media coverage made him look like a criminal.
“And that’s not the case,” she said. “This is a citizen journalist who found that [Planned Parenthood] was breaking the law and took this case to the public. This is really just bullying and using him as an example to show, ‘This is what happens when you go after Planned Parenthood.’”
Brejcha called the raid and search warrant a “fishing expedition” and added that the legal team is on solid ground to attack the warrant’s merits in court. He said the politics behind the raid were “rather blatant and unavoidable” and said he is confident that the courts will see it in Daleiden’s favor.
“Let the chips fall wherever they may,” Brejcha said. “We think, ultimately, they will fall in our direction.”
Register correspondent Brian Fraga writes from Fall River, Massachusetts.