| As quietcat noted in response to my post about Sen. Snowe's lack of small donor support, Federal Election Commission (FEC) disclosure data makes it look like Planned Parenthood dropped a five-figure donation on Maine's senior senator earlier this year.
I'd noticed the same thing and had been puzzled by it--and not just because of the amount: It's hard to understand why an aggressively pro-choice organization with a strong interest in women's health issues would shower dollars on someone who supported the confirmation of anti-Roe crusader Samuel Alito, voted against health care reform and had voted for a budget that would have stripped the organization of federal funding just a week earlier. (That vote failed. Snowe later voted against a Republican-sponsored budget amendment to zero out funding.)
So I got in touch with Megan Hannan at Planned Parenthood Northern New England. She was able to set the record straight on the source of the funds, telling me via e-mail that while "one of my staffers in DC did, in fact, deliver checks to Snowe's campaign...they are not 'from' Planned Parenthood." She explained that the organization, acting as a conduit, raised funds for Snowe's reelection committee and then passed them along to the senator's campaign.
Fair enough--and an important distinction. But why support Snowe at all, let alone this early in the cycle? Why not wait to see how the Democratic field develops? Given that Planned Parenthood didn't just refrain from raising funds for Sen. Collins in Maine's last Senate race, but in fact worked to defeat her, isn't this kind of backing premature and maybe inconsistent to boot?
Hannan passed me off to Amy Taylor, Planned Parenthood's DC-based interim vice president for public policy and advocacy.
Taylor explained that Planned Parenthood holds "meet and greet events with donors in New York [and] Washington" where the organization "helps solicit dollars" for candidates--and that similar appeals are made online. Conduit payments arise from these efforts.
(According to a quick perusal of the FEC data for Q1 of this year, Snowe was the only pol to receive such payments from Planned Parenthood during that period. Taylor said similar events have been held for other candidates, and they should show up in Q2 data.)
Taylor went on to explain that given the senior senator's imperfect rating on Planned Parenthood's legislative scorecard, and given the organization's "100% policy"--which precludes it from endorsing candidates with flawed voting records--organizing these kinds of solicitations is a key way, in the absence of an endorsement, for the group to support Snowe's candidacy.
But doesn't this get things backwards? Instead of simply taking Snowe's pro-choice and women's health bona fides for granted and trying to maneuver around the 100% policy, shouldn't the senior senator's flawed rating, instead, be seen as a signal that perhaps she hasn't earned Planned Parenthood's backing? And that, maybe, with the Democratic field still in flux, Planned Parenthood should wait and see what develops?
After conceding that Snowe's and Collins' "voting records have been pretty similar" Taylor told me that the senior senator has been, "an important pro-choice voice within the Republican party" and that "working with our Republican allies and champions to help them politically" makes sense.
So is Snowe's GOP affiliation a key part of why she deserves support? Is the group going out of its way to boost a Republican--in a way it wouldn't for a Democrat with a similar record? Taylor strongly resisted that characterization.
When I pressed her on what Snowe had done to be considered a "champion" on Planned Parenthood's issues--and reminded her that after looking at Collins' (similar) voting record, the group had decided to actively oppose her reelection--Taylor praised Snowe's work on health care reform generally and her vote in favor of the Women's Health Amendment in particular. And she said she'd get back to me with more specifics.
She also noted that she wasn't working for the Planned Parenthood when it sided against Collins in 2008, and said that the organization might come to a different conclusion today. (No harm no foul, I guess.)
So there you have it: Snowe is a champion on choice, a leader on women's health issues and an ally on health care reform--and Collins' record is pretty good too.
Anyone else feeling like banging their head against the wall?