By JULIE GALLAGHER
Capital News Service
WASHINGTON — Democratic members of a House oversight panel sent a letter Tuesday to Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, requesting him to direct the anti-abortion activist who secretly recorded Planned Parenthood to turn over documents related to his videos.
The letter comes after Chaffetz, who is running for speaker of the House, said on CNN last week that he believed Planned Parenthood had done nothing illegal. The letter stated that Chaffetz’s staff sent a request to Planned Parenthood for even more documents, despite a lack of evidence that Planned Parenthood partook in any illegal activity.
“If even Republicans now admit there is no evidence that Planned Parenthood violated any laws, then what are three House committees investigating, and why in the world are Republicans insisting on creating yet another select committee at taxpayer expense?” Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, said in a statement after Chaffetz’s admission on “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.”
Cummings and the 16 other Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said they have strong concerns that David Daleiden and his organization, the Center for Medical Progress, has violated the law through “filing false documents with government agencies, falsely impersonating a legitimate business concern, soliciting charitable contributions under false pretenses, and secretly recording Planned Parenthood officials without their consent.”
The Democrats said in their letter that “continuing to shield” Daleiden makes it seem as though the committee’s goal is to attack Planned Parenthood and not to conduct a proper investigation.
The letter stated that Planned Parenthood has produced more than 20,000 pages of documents and cooperatively volunteered to answer questions from the committee. They noted that, despite a subpoena, Daleiden has not yet produced any documents and has not testified before the committee.
This past summer Daleiden and his organization released undercover videos of Planned Parenthood employees seemingly discussing selling fetal tissue for medical research.
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood sat before the committee last week as they inquired whether the women’s health organization should continue to receive federal funding. Chaffetz voted last week to defund Planned Parenthood.
Chaffetz said last week at the hearing that he did not invite Daleiden to the hearing because he felt it was inappropriate to question him without proper acquisition of the unedited videos. Chaffetz said that there was a temporary restraining order on the videos issued in California that prevented the committee from getting access to much of the original video content.
Chaffetz could not be reached for comment regarding Tuesday’s letter.
“We believe it is inappropriate for the committee to continue harassing Planned Parenthood for political reasons — with no evidence of any wrongdoing — simply to force the group to squander millions of dollars in legal fees that could be going to support breast exams, cancer screening, and other critical women’s healthcare services,” the Democrats’ letter stated.
The Democrats also produced a list of 21 questions for Daleiden to answer about the legality of his organization’s actions in creating the videos. The letter asked for answers by Oct. 20.
There will be a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday to discuss the abortion procedures and ethics at Planned Parenthood, which was a topic heavily debated at the federal funding hearing last week.