The Banana Republic of Minnesota, Part 1: Planned Parenthood

Late afternoon last Friday (5:30 p.m. to be exact) the Minnesota arm of Obamacare—the MNsure health insurance exchange—issued a press release touting the 30 organizations picked to receive grant money to promote the new service.  MNsure is a state government agency collaborative involving five agencies.  MNsure’s Board of Directors includes seven members, only one of which (the Commissioner of the state’s Department of Human Services) is a state employee.  In other words, as a powerful and well-funded independent government entity, MNsure is accountable to no one except the Governor, who appoints all seven members of the board.
The MNsure exchange is scheduled to begin operations on October 1st and these 30 groups will split $4 million in Federal grant money to promote the Obamacare exchange within the state.  According to Minnesota Public Radio, more than 100 organizations competed for the 30 grants.  Individual amounts and the specific scope of work for each will be determined later.

Prominent among the 30 names was the local non-profit Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.  Planned Parenthood is, of course, the largest abortion provider in Minnesota.  According to its 2011 IRS Form 990 Income Tax Return, the group had total revenue of almost $30 million.

Efforts earlier this year in the state legislature to ban abortion coverage in the exchange were unsuccessful.  That battle was also fought and lost at the Federal level with efforts falling short to prevent taxpayer funds from subsidizing abortions.

That Planned Parenthood’s grant application would be among the chosen 30, in hindsight, always seemed like a sure thing.

Planned Parenthood endorsed current Governor Mark Dayton’s bid for office back in 2010.  And the group backed up its public endorsement with hard cash.

Planned Parenthood is no stranger to the highest level of state government.  Gov. Mark Dayton’s powerful Chief-of-Staff Tina Smith once served as Vice President for External Relations for Planned Parenthood.  Her tenure in that position extended from January 2003 to January 2006, according to Ms. Smith’s Linked in® profile.

Planned Parenthood is also well represented among the big money funding the state’s Democrat party.  According to filings made at the state’s Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, the Planned Parenthood network has a number of political funds that donate money in support of Democrat candidates.

The Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota Action Fund spent $145,360.59 in independent expenditures on behalf of Democrat candidates for the state legislature in 2012.  The majority of this money came from the Planned Parenthood non-profit, the recipient of the 2013 MNSure grant.  A total of $104,960.59 in cash was transferred from the non-profit to the political fund, with about ⅓ of the total coming after election day.  Of the total amount, $25,000 was provided by WIN Minnesota, the fundraising arm of the Alliance for a Better Minnesota.  Specifically, the funds came from WIN’s 501(c)(4) tax-exempt non-profit.  The remaining funds were provided by three individuals.

Back in 2010, the Action Fund spent only $22,564.84 in supporting Democrat candidates, all of it donated by the non-profit arm.  Included in its independent expenditures that year was $1,122 spent on behalf of Democrat Mark Dayton, in his winning bid for Governor.

In 2012, the separate Planned Parenthood Minnesota Political Action Fund spent in a small amount, less than $2,000, on various expenses.  That Fund was considerably more active in 2010, spending $24,703.34.  A total of $25,000 was donated to the Fund that year by Hope Aldrich Rockefeller Spencer of New Mexico, the sister of Alida Rockefeller Messinger.  You will recall that Ms. Messinger is the ex-wife of Gov. Mark Dayton and a major contributor to WIN Minnesota.  The Fund made a total of $18,386.27 in independent expenditures on behalf of then-candidate Mark Dayton for Governor.

In 2012, a third group—Planned Parenthood Stands With All Families—spent $9,497.11, mostly on reimbursing the non-profit for various political expenses.  The bulk of the cash funds originated from the Planned Parenthood non-profit.  That entity did not exist in 2010.

Also new in 2012 was the Planned Parenthood Supports Civic Engagement and a Strong Democracy fund.  This entity spent $7,946.84.  Again, most of the cash originated in the non-profit and was used to reimburse the non-profit.  The latter two entities appear to be vaguely associated with the two referenda on the ballot in 2012.

Planned Parenthood is registered as a lobbyist organization with five individual lobbyists registered in Minnesota.

Regardless of how you feel about the issue of abortion, the whole MNsure affair has a whiff of the banana republic about it.  Wealthy, dynastic families hold a monopoly on both political power and private wealth.  Well-connected private entities generously donate to the ruling party and are rewarded with grants of taxpayer funds.  And we don’t even get to enjoy the nice Central American weather.