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AP/Susan Walsh and Mike Hutmacher,The Wichita Eagle

Sebelius-Tiller ties

Politics | President Obama's nominee to head up Health and Human Services underreported political donations from the controversial abortion provider

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, President Obama's nominee to head the Department of Health and Human Services, has come under fire this week for misstating how much money she received from a controversial late-term abortionist.

The revelation that she received almost three times as much political money from George Tiller then she originally told senators has suddenly put her recently considered smooth confirmation in jeopardy.

Scheduled to be approved by the Senate Finance Committee and forwarded for a vote by the full Senate as early as next week, Sebelius will now surely be pressed for more explanations concerning her financial dealings with one of the nation's few providers of late-term abortions.

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Sebelius, in her response to Senate Finance Committee questions, originally wrote that she received $12,450 from 1994 to 2001 from Tiller. An Associated Press review, however, revealed that Tiller donated at least $23,000 more to Sebelius' political action committee from 2000 to 2002.

A spokesman for Sebelius called the discrepancy an "oversight," adding that Sebelius would be updating her answer.

But pro-life group Operation Rescue's President Troy Newman said, "The only 'oversight' by Sebelius has been of the truth. Sebelius has worked overtime to minimize her relationship to Tiller. Her underreporting of his contributions to her campaigns is just another example of this disingenuous behavior."

Operation Rescue has also released a 2002 fundraising letter from Tiller in which he writes about a $200,000 personal contribution to a political action committee set up to defeat Sebelius' pro-life Republican opponent in the 2002 governor's race.

"Kathleen Sebelius benefited from the hundreds of thousands of dollars that Tiller personally gave to influence the outcome of the 2002 election in her favor," said Newman. "This letter is undeniable evidence that Sebelius has yet to come clean with the Senate Finance Committee, and with the American people concerning her strong financial ties to abortionist Tiller."

Sebelius has a long record of supporting abortion rights. Tiller, acquitted last month of misdemeanor charges stemming from procedures he performed, is now under investigation by the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts.

This is not Sebelius' first financial gaffe during the confirmation process. Earlier she had to pay more than $7,000 in back taxes and amend three years of tax returns because of improper deductions.

With these latest revelations, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins has called on the president to withdraw Sebelius' nomination, saying these oversights "invite a serious question about her integrity. What else has she not told us? What else remains in Gov. Sebelius's closet? If we can't trust Gov. Sebelius to be open and honest about her money connections, how we can trust her to administer and improve our health care system?"

Opponents of Sebelius fear that, if confirmed to lead the federal government's largest agency, she could be positioned to strengthen pro-abortion policies on the federal level. Already the department has announced its intentions to rescind a federal regulation protecting doctors who decline to perform procedures-such as abortions-that they find morally objectionable.

Pro-life groups criticized senators on the Finance Committee for not questioning Sebelius about her abortion activities when she appeared before the committee earlier this month. Several senators did ask her about her positions on abortion in written questions.

Pro-life groups hope senators who oppose abortion will take stronger stands when the Senate takes up her nomination after the two-week congressional Easter recess ends next week.

But Kansas pro-life Republican Sen. Sam Brownback, who has endorsed Sebelius, told The Associated Press this week that, while he finds the latest details "very troubling," he is not backing off of his endorsement.

Edward Lee Pitts
Edward Lee Pitts

Lee teaches journalism at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, and is the associate dean of the World Journalism Institute.


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