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Friday, August 07, 2015
Illegal Lobbying by Planned Parenthood behind New Sex Ed Program?
By Rep Bob McDermott @ 12:30 AM :: 5111 Views :: Education K-12, Ethics, Life


McDermott cites excessive lobbying activities as a direct violation of Planned Parenthood’s 501(c) tax status.

News Release from Office of Rep Bob McDermott

Honolulu – August 6, 2015 – Today Representative Bob McDermott (HD40 Ewa Beach) released a letter his office sent to the IRS asking them to investigate allegations of lobbying the State Legislature in order to gain valuable curriculum development contracts in Hawaii’s Public School System.

“Planned Parenthood has been aggressively forcing it’s way into the public school system, and it’s push for “social engineering” over valid health and welfare of the students is our major concern,” said McDermott. “The extensive lobbying and pressure they’ve put on legislators of override the Department of Education is way over the line for a 501(c) tax exempt corporation.”

McDermott feels that the recent decision to once again override parents, teachers and the Board of Education to return “sexual education” to a mandatory (or opt out) curriculum was done at the behest of Planned Parenthood and others to make their versions of sex education easier to sell and less subject to scrutiny.

“We’ve forgotten the primary purpose of our education system,” continued McDermott. “Our legislators seem willing to hand over access to our kids to any special interest group that rewards them for their votes.”

###

August 3, 2015

Ms. Tamera L. Ripperda

Director, Exempt Organizations Division, Internal Revenue Service

Dear Ms. Ripperda:

Re:  Illegal lobbying and excessive influence peddling exerted by Planned Parenthood organizations on Hawaii's public education system

Dear Ms. Ripperda:

I am a state representative in the State of Hawaii and represent House District 40.  My district is located on the west side of the island of Oahu.  Previously a plantation town verdant with sugar cane fields, it is now home to numerous residential subdivisions for much of the State's moderate-income workforce and military families.

The purpose of this letter is twofold: (1) to alert you to excessive (I believe illegal) and inappropriate lobbying conducted by Planned Parenthood Federation of America's Hawaii affiliates; and (2) to urge your division to investigate the manner in which these tax-exempt non-profit organizations lobbied state legislators and members of the Hawaii Board of Education to revert to a harmful parental "opt-out" policy for sex education curriculum in Hawaii's public schools.

It is my personal observation and strong belief that these organizations – now known as Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands[1] and Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii[2] – have exploited their tax-exempt status and acted in bad faith.  They went far beyond conducting acceptable "educational activities" and engaged in excessive "lobbying" beyond all reasonable meaning of the term as used in section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code.  In sum, they launched an all-out attack on Hawaii's approach to sex education in public schools and crossed all lines of decency and appropriateness.

Factual Background:

· In June 2014, the Hawaii Department of Education decided to revise its Regulation #2210.1 and switch from a parental "opt-out" policy for the teaching of sex education in public schools to an affirmative "opt-in" policy.  This change was explained in pages 4-5 of the Department's report titled "Implementing Sexual Health Education: Background and Actions for Improvement".[3]  The purpose of changing to an affirmative "opt-in" policy was to strengthen parents' awareness of, and role in, sexual health education options for their children.  As a legislator and married father of 8 children, I supported this positive action that would give busy working parents more of a say in their children's education.  The larger context surrounding this policy change was the introduction of "Pono Choices", an experimental – and controversial – sex education curriculum that ignited a firestorm of criticism over its casual depictions of risky sexual behaviors and use of medically inaccurate terminology, which was produced in part by Planned Parenthood.

· During the legislative interim of 2014, our state legislature's Keiki Caucus[4] circulated and promoted a draft of what would become House Bill 459 of the 2015 legislative session.  The bill proposed to: (1) undo the Department of Education's change to an "opt-in" requirement and revert to the old "opt-out" policy; and (2) mandate that sex education be taught in all public schools – even elementary schools.  I have no doubt that Planned Parenthood's Hawaii affiliates illegally lobbied the caucus members in order to undermine and reverse the Department of Education's change.

· From January 2015 through April 2015, the most active months of Hawaii's legislative session, Planned Parenthood's Hawaii affiliates engaged in extreme lobbying at the legislature.  They plastered their Facebook pages with photos featuring their lobbyist(s) and staff flanked by various legislators.  They even had the audacity to gleefully exclaim "Oh yes, we are!" in response to concerns I raised during a floor speech on House Bill 459 that Planned Parenthood was overbearingly influencing the state's sex education policy and would end up writing and running our public school sex education program (see enclosed printouts).  Despite these lobbying efforts, House Bill 459 stalled in the legislature.

· Subsequently, Planned Parenthood's Hawaii affiliates changed tactics and shifted their lobbying efforts to the Hawaii Board of Education, which has the power to formulate statewide educational policy and therefore trump a departmental regulation.

· In June 2015, the Hawaii Board of Education voted 5-1 in favor of overruling the Department of Education's request to continue requiring that parents affirmatively "opt-in" to having their children undergo the sex education curriculum.[5]  As a result, we are now back to the old "opt-out" policy – an approach that Planned Parenthood favors because mandatory sex education will be the default, with only the most determined and vigilant of parents taking the time to thoroughly review any proposed curriculum and provide written notice to the school that they do not want their child to participate.

· In a July 2015 news release announcing the merging of their Northwestern U.S. and Hawaii advocacy organizations to form a new 501(c)(4) organization,[6] Planned Parenthood unabashedly credited themselves for swaying the Board of Education's vote:

"The merger has already made a positive impact in Hawaii with the Hawaii State Board of Education’s (BOE) vote to require public schools to provide students with sexual health education. Staff from both merging organizations and PPGNHI worked closely to build support for the new policy, encouraging parents and community leaders in Hawaii to send in letters and attend the vote. Planned Parenthood supporters ultimately sent in over 350 messages to express their support."

Ms. Ripperda, I find it deeply disturbing that Planned Parenthood went far beyond mere "educational activities" and "lobbying".  They actually took it upon themselves to undermine the work of our Department of Education.  Dissatisfied with the department's change to a more sensible "opt-in" approach, they deliberately inserted themselves into the internal decision-making processes of our statewide education system.  This is evidenced by the Board of Education suddenly – and seemingly out of nowhere – seeing a "need" to abandon the Department of Education's revised regulation requiring an affirmative "opt-in" approach that would have strengthened the role of parents in the education system.  Thus, I strongly urge your division to investigate this situation, particularly the following issues.

Issues germane to an investigation:

1. Whether the 501(c)(3) organization, now known as Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and Hawaiian Islands, conducted inappropriate "educational activities" or engaged in illegal and excessive lobbying based on the substantial part test or expenditure test.  Per the Hawaii State Ethics Commission website,[7] the 501(c)(3) organization has one registered lobbyist for 2015-2016 and her name is Laurie Ann Temple Field.

2. How are all their activities, including posing for photos on Facebook with state legislators on the grounds of the State Capitol building, considered "educational" as defined under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code?

3. What was communicated in their conversations with state legislators and members of the Hawaii Board of Education?

4. How frequently did the organization's lobbyist(s) communicate with state legislators and members of the Hawaii Board of Education?  What do the Board of Education's visitor logs show?

5. How much time did the organization spend on lobbying activities, relative to other activities conducted by the organization?

6. How much money did the organization spend on lobbying activities, relative to other activities funded by the organization?

7. Did Planned Parenthood ever disclose their blatant  financial conflict of interest as a curriculum advisor/developer when relentlessly lobbying for these changes at the Legislature and the State Board of Education?

Again, I urge your department to investigate this situation.  Doing so will protect the public interest and restore public confidence in the IRS' oversight of tax-exempt non-profit organizations.

Sincerely,

Bob McDermott

Representative, District 40  

CC:  Joan Hirsch, Area Manager, Pacific Coast, EO Examinations

[1] Earlier this year, their Hawaii-based 501(c)(3) organization recently merged with another regional affiliate and is now Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and Hawaiian Islands (PPGNHI), a 501(c)(3) organization.

[2] Very recently, their Hawaii-based advocacy arm underwent a similar merger and is now Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii (PPVNH), a 501(c)(4) organization.

[3] The report, dated June 2014, is available at http://www.hawaiipublicschools.org/DOE%20Forms/PonoChoicesImplementationReport.pdf

[4] "Keiki" is the Hawaiian word for children.

[5] See http://www.civilbeat.com/2015/06/hawaii-public-schools-must-offer-sex-education-board-decides/

[6] See http://www.ppvotesnw.net/2015/07/13/say-hello-to-planned-parenthood-votes-northwest-and-hawaii/

[7] See Hawaii State Ethics Commission | Lobbyist Registration Statements

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