WASHINGTON — A leaked grant report from the George Soros-owned Open Societies Foundation seems to show Planned Parenthood and its allies in a panicked effort to raise millions of dollars to counter a series of investigative videos alleging the abortion provider broke the law.
For undercover journalist David Daleiden, it’s a sign of hope.
“It shows that the issue of selling baby body parts for profit is an issue that could shut Planned Parenthood down. And that is why they are taking it so seriously,” Daleiden, founder of the Center for Medical Progress, told CNA Aug. 24.
In an undercover project released last year, Daleiden and a colleague had posed as prospective buyers of fetal tissue. They recorded conversations with multiple Planned Parenthood officials around the country, and recorded several grisly sessions of aborted babies’ bodies being disassembled for possible tissue harvesting and sale.
Daleiden said a document attributed to billionaire Soros’ Open Societies Foundation group “shows that Planned Parenthood and their allies realize that the baby body parts issue is the biggest crisis, the biggest scandal and the worst revelations that they have every faced in their 100-year existence.”
“I think it shows that even an organization as large, as well-funded and politically connected as Planned Parenthood is not invincible,” he added. “The tone of panic is really evident in this funding request.”
The document, titled “Urgent Response in Defense of Women’s Health — Planned Parenthood Action Fund,” was published by the website DCLeaks.com. It indicates that the Open Societies Foundations’ U.S. general reserves fund made a $1.5 million grant to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund for lobbying efforts to respond to the video investigation and its aftermath.
According to the document, Planned Parenthood’s Fight Back Campaign was projected to cost $7 to $8 million. Cecile Richards, the Planned Parenthood CEO and a trustee of the deeply influential Ford Foundation, had already secured a $2 million commitment for 501(c)(3) funds.
“While Planned Parenthood has had to defend against a variety of attacks by abortion opponents in recent years, the release of these videos and the related attacks were severe and without warning,” the document says. “Countering this offensive requires an enormous amount of resources and staff time, which is the intent of the opposition.”
In July 2015, the Center for Medical Progress began to release a series of undercover videos that appeared to show Planned Parenthood’s role in the sale of fetal tissue of aborted babies to tissue harvesters for profit — a practice barred by federal law.
The investigation provoked an outcry over possible lawbreaking by the largest abortion provider in the U.S. and strengthened the movement to end taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood, which receives $500 million in federal funds annually for other services.
The reputed document from Soros’ foundation appears to have been written about three weeks after the first video broke.
According to the document, the $1.5 million grant provided an “infusion” of 501(c)(4) funding to Planned Parenthood’s political arm “as they were waging a critical defense against attacks to the reputation and credibility of Planned Parenthood and potential loss of federal funding.” The grant reportedly enabled the action fund’s Fight Back Campaign to mobilize supporters and lobby state and federal legislators to counter efforts to defund the abortion provider.
The grant report said funding for lobbying activities through 501(c)(4) organizations is “much harder to come by” so the Open Society Policy Center is “uniquely situated” to provide “critical resources Planned Parenthood will have a hard time finding anywhere else.”
The grant was planned to fund lobbying of legislators as well as paid and earned media, and other activities. Planned Parenthood Action Fund was running targeted television ads in key districts to rally voters.
“Working with top crisis communications consultants, Planned Parenthood is conducting national and state media outreach to both expose the true agenda of its opponents and transform the narrative surrounding these attacks, including forensic analysis of doctored tapes,” the document says.
Daleiden has rejected charges the Center for Medical Progress committed fraud in its investigations and reports.
“All of those claims from Planned Parenthood have been completely discredited at this point,” he told CNA. “There’s no deceptive editing in the videos. In fact the full footage of the videos has been available for over a year now for anyone who wants to watch to see it.”
Daleiden pointed to the work of the Select Investigative Panel of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee.
“They’re confirming that Planned Parenthood absolutely profited off of the sale of fetal body parts, which was a state and federal crime,” he said, suggesting the panel has found even deeper problems.
The journalist also thought the abortion provider’s reaction campaign had reached the limit of its effectiveness.
“There’s not really much else that Planned Parenthood or their allies or their many business partners in this area can do to erase history or rewrite history at this point. We live in a digital age. You can’t just shred documents or delete e-mails… they still end up popping up one way or another.”
He pointed to another leaked document apparently prepared for the Oct. 1-2, 2015 board meeting for the Open Society U.S. Program. It referred to the videos as one of the attacks “that have upended Planned Parenthood.” The Center for Medical Progress investigations will have long-term consequences involving “the substantial eroding of Planned Parenthood’s credibility and reputation,” the board meeting book said.
Daleiden said the $1.5 million grant report shows that Planned Parenthood particularly feared congressional investigation, which echoed what multiple Planned Parenthood leaders told him when he was undercover.
The grant proposal noted Planned Parenthood’s response campaign would increase security at its clinics and support its legal defense through the prominent law firm O’Melveny & Myers. Its concern for federal and state investigations particularly noted the state of Texas.
Daleiden suggested the document’s focus on Texas may be due to the presence of one of the abortion providers’ biggest and wealthiest affiliates, the Houston-based Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast. He said the affiliate was particularly implicated in his reports and had been selling baby parts for 10 years.
In January, a Houston grand jury cleared Planned Parenthood of accusations, while indicting Daleiden for a misdemeanor charge of attempting to purchase fetal tissue from the abortion clinic in Houston and a felony charge for using false identification to access the Houston clinic. The charges against Daleiden were dropped in June and July.
Daleiden suspected collusion between Planned Parenthood and legal authorities.
“Planned Parenthood really pulled out all the stops in the state of Texas and I think we know why now because of this leak,” he said. “This leaked memo shows that that was one of the states that they were absolutely concerned about.”
For Daleiden, journalistic investigations done correctly can overcome even well-funded campaigns.
“The biggest key is good data and good information. No amount of millions of dollars can ultimately cover up a crime or erase the fact that a crime was committed,” he said.
The reputed Open Societies Foundation grant report lists two external partners in the campaign to defend the abortion provider: the Hewlett Foundation and the Democracy Alliance. The Hewlett Foundation, a major Planned Parenthood donor, had $9 billion in assets as of December 2015 and made an estimated $400 million in grants to various groups last year. It was founded by William R. Hewlett, the co-founder of the Hewlett Packard Company. The foundation website says it is “wholly independent” of the company.
The Democracy Alliance is a major network of wealthy donors generally aligned with the Democratic Party. It gives as much as $60 million a year in strategic funding, the group’s website says. The group describes itself as “dedicated to building the progressive movement in the United States.”
The grant report describes the Planned Parenthood Action Fund as a long-time grantee of the Open Society Foundations’ U.S. Programs section.
The Open Society Foundations did not respond to a request for comment.
Another document in the leak, an apparent version the Open Society Foundations’ proposed 2016-2019 strategy for its Women’s Rights Program, notes the foundations’ support for groups backing the repeal of pro-life laws in Ireland. The document says Ireland could be used as a model to change pro-life laws in other Catholic countries.
Some security experts say DCLeaks.com has the hallmarks of Russian intelligence, Bloomberg News reports. The Open Society Foundations reported a security breach to the FBI in June. A security firm investigation reportedly found the intrusion was limited to an intranet system used by the foundations’ board members, staff and foundation partners.