Planned Parenthood has retained lawyers from Hogan Lovells as it prepares to respond to a sweeping new inquiry into how the organization and its affiliates use federal money.
U.S. House Republicans launched the inquiry this month. Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, wrote a letter to Planned Parenthood’s national organization asking for information about how the network of nonprofit health clinics complies with the law prohibiting the use of federal money on abortions.
Stearns’ subcommittee is one of the most active congressional panels for conducting investigations, and corporations and organizations that are in the subcommittee’s crosshairs often look to outside help. Solyndra Inc., a California solar-energy company that is facing an investigation related to a federal loan guarantee, has retained McDermott Will & Emery.
Working on the matter for Planned Parenthood are Hogan Lovells partner E. Desmond Hogan and of counsel Reid Stuntz. Both lawyers have experience in congressional investigations, and Stuntz is a former chief counsel on the oversight subcommittee under then-Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.), according to his firm profile.
The situation is unique for Planned Parenthood. Although it has been drawn into other Capitol Hill inquiries in the past, it has never before been a target and Stearns’ letter makes clear that it is. “This is the first time someone has said, ‘I’m going to investigate the organization,’ ” said Roger Evans, the director of public policy litigation for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a phone interview today.
Stearns initially asked Planned Parenthood to turn over documents by Sept. 29, but Evans said he and the subcommittee have agreed on a two-week extension. The subcommittee is asking for copies of audits from as early as 1991, related documents about funding and information about how Planned Parenthood detects possible criminal conduct such as sex trafficking.
In a statement, Planned Parenthood’s national president, Cecile Richards, called the investigation “politically motivated” and “a continuation of the efforts of earlier this year to undermine” the organization. The Associated Press reported in July that Americans United for Life, which opposes abortion rights, called for Stearns’ subcommittee to investigate Planned Parenthood, and Stearns said then he was considering holding a hearing.
“Our response will be to work with the committee to be sure they have whatever information they need to complete the request and to do so in as timely a fashion as we are able,” Evans said. Eventually, he said, “I think any objective observer will realize there is no genuine problem here.”
Stearns, in his letter (PDF), wrote that the committee “has questions about the policies in place and actions undertaken by PPFA and its affiliates relating to its use of federal funding and its compliance with federal restrictions on the funding of abortion.”
Two Democrats, Reps. Diana DeGette (Colo.) and Henry Waxman (Calif.), wrote a response (PDF) to Stearns on Tuesday calling his request “extraordinarily broad and burdensome” for Planned Parenthood. “Your fervent ideological opposition to Planned Parenthood does not justify launching this intrusive investigation,” they wrote.