The Intended Consequences of Video Scams and Fraudulent “News”

Little Rock  I don’t want to seem like I have a chip on my shoulder about James O’Keefe and his wannabes and their unprincipled video scams, because it’s more a mission than a grudge, and it’s not just about ACORN. His project and the efforts of his imitators on the right is the systemic defunding and delegitimization of progressive institutions whether ACORN, Planned Parenthood, unions, NPR or whatever. A friend sent along this piece distributed by Think Progress which strikes close to home on many counts, since it involves Arkansas where I am working today on several projects. Here goes:

Arkansas is Proof that Discredited Sting Videos Have Severe Consequences

Now it has cost Planned Parenthood access to Medicaid funding – again!

E.A. Crunden Nov 29, 2017, 4:33 pm

Arkansas once again cut off access to Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood over discredited sting videos filmed in secret by an anti-abortion group.

The state terminated Planned Parenthood’s status as a medical provider last week after an 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding Arkansas’ right to do so took effect, Arkansas Department of Human Services spokesperson Amy Webb said Monday. The court ruled in August that Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s 2015 termination of Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid contract was legal, ending a preliminary injunction blocking Hutchinson’s move. In the fiscal year prior to the action, Planned Parenthood received $51,000 in Medicaid funds, none of which paid for abortions (under the Hyde Amendment, federal funding of abortion is illegal in virtually all cases.)

The organization decried the move as an effort to harm those in need of reproductive care across the state.

“Planned Parenthood Great Plains remains committed to serving our patients regardless of their ability to pay while we continue fighting to protect the right of Arkansas women and families to access critical health care services,” said Aaron Samulcek, interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains. “Every individual ought to have the freedom to choose their health care provider and for many in Arkansas, that choice is Planned Parenthood Great Plains.”

Hutchinson’s initial action two years ago was prompted by a series of sting videos released by the Center for Medical Progress, or CMP. The anti-abortion group argued that the heavily-edited videos showed Planned Parenthood illegally selling fetal tissue for profit, something the organization strongly denied. A Texas jury found Planned Parenthood not guilty in 2016; CMP’s founder and another member were charged with multiple felonies in California, some of which were later thrown out.

While the sting videos have been discredited, Arkansas is only one example of their very real ramifications. Lawmakers across the country pushed for harsh legislation after the videos were released and the House of Representatives voted to defund Planned Parenthood for a year, allowing time for an investigation (that effort failed to gain traction with either the Senate or the Obama administration.) A number of 2016 Republican presidential candidates also condemned the organization despite no evidence of wrongdoing. A 57-year-old gunman, Robert Dear, later shot and killed three people at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs. Dear said he was a “warrior for the babies” angry about “the selling of baby parts.”

Sting videos more broadly have resurfaced in the news for reasons unrelated to Arkansas. CMP’s videos were inspired by conservative activist James O’Keefe, who has spent years attempting to damage progressive organizations with secret recordings. O’Keefe is the founder of Project Veritas, an organization that claims to “investigate and expose corruption, dishonesty, self-dealing, waste, fraud, and other misconduct in both public and private institutions in order to achieve a more ethical and transparent society.”

Project Veritas targets progressive groups along with mainstream media. The organization made headlines earlier this week when the Washington Post published a story revealing that a woman had come forward accusing Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore (R) of rape. Inconsistencies in her story aroused suspicion and the Post declined to publish her account. She was later seen entering the New York offices of Project Veritas, with whom she is believed to have a connection. Moore has been accused of sexual assault and harassment by nine women, one of whom says she was only 14 at the time of the incident. Project Veritas’ efforts were an attempt to use false allegations of sexual assault to undermine the mounting charges made by those who say they were hurt by Moore.

O’Keefe essentially admitted to the actions in a letter sent to his supporters.

“Following months of undercover work within The Washington Post, our investigative journalist embedded within the publication had their cover blown,” he wrote. “This is how undercover work goes. This isn’t the first time that has happened, and it won’t be the last time.”

Support for O’Keefe’s efforts run deep. A Think Progress investigation into O’Keefe’s backers found that the Trump Foundation donated $20,000 to Project Veritas in 2015. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump claimed rival Hillary Clinton had hired people to “be violent, cause fights, [and] do bad things” at his rallies, an allegation based on O’Keefe videos and made without evidence.

O’Keefe’s latest sting attempt may have failed, but his methodology is working. Arkansas is proof that discredited sting videos can be successful. After the August ruling, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (R) praised the decision as a victory against “a medical provider [that] has engaged in misconduct,” a sentiment echoed by Gov. Hutchinson.

“This is a substantial legal victory for the right of the state to determine whether Medicaid providers are acting in accordance with best practices and affirms the prerogative of the state to make reasoned judgments on the Medicaid program,” Hutchinson said.

The state had 906,417 Medicaid and CHIP enrollees as of September 2017, many of whom need access to reproductive resources like those provided by Planned Parenthood, which has only two locations in Arkansas — Fayetteville and Little Rock. The organization has not said if it will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

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What Do Planned Parenthood and ACORN Have in Common – Republican Attacks!

Cecile Richards greets participants at the Rally for Women’s Health on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. on July 11, 2013.

New Orleans   Hey, it’s not just me that’s noticed the haters pulling out their playbook big time again on Planned Parenthood just as they did on ACORN. Here’s a thoughtful, spot on piece by Brenden Gallagher published on the merryjane.com website. I’m glad to bring truth wherever I find it, so here goes:

Why Do Republicans Hate Planned Parenthood So Much?

Take a closer look at the crusade against women’s rights and health care.

A simple explanation for defunding Planned Parenthood that is offered up ad nauseum by talking heads across the political spectrum is that Republicans hate abortion. That doesn’t tell the whole story. Not only does Planned Parenthood offer many services that aren’t abortions, abortion only accounts for 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services. Eighty percent of Planned Parenthood’s services go toward preventing unintended pregnancy. If Planned Parenthood were to go away overnight, the result would be an increase in abortions. In over 100 counties in America, Planned Parenthood is the only “safety net” health center that deals with women’s reproductive health. Poor and working-class women in America depend on Planned Parenthood for essential medical care.

Republicans are always on the lookout for a new bogeyman. This is a necessity for a party that actively advances policies that hurt working people. Since their policies of restricting health care, lower wages, and funneling money into the hands of corporations don’t naturally attract the working class, they have to invent reasons for people who make less than six figures a year to vote for them. Not everyone can be cowed by the largely imagined threat of immigrants taking their jobs, and that’s why the have to construct and destroy social pariahs to maintain their base. If you take a close look at Republican political strategy, you will see that the fight against Planned Parenthood isn’t just about abortion, it’s about bringing a scalp home to their base while trimming the budget at the expense of women all over the country.

The current Republican crusade against Planned Parenthood looks a lot like the their attacks against ACORN (Association of Community Organizing for Reform Now). In 2008, the organization had a budget of $100 million and membership of 400,000. By the beginning of 2010, ACORN was no more. The company’s 40-year mission of helping those in poverty, with actions as small as building playgrounds and as large at taking on banks, came crashing down after Republicans conducted a national smear campaign connecting ACORN erroneously with voter fraud. It’s no coincidence that James O’Keefe, a self-styled provocateur, has made videos attempting to discredit both ACORN and Planned Parenthood. It bears mentioning that the GOP and its surrogates seized upon some very real stories of corruption within ACORN to bring them down, but it was a propaganda campaign constructed on falsehoods that ultimately led to ACORN’s demise.

This is how the Republicans operate. They attack organizations with a three-step process. First, Republicans identify a positive social organization in which they can easily spot and single out something conservatives hate. In the case of ACORN, it was voter fraud committed by minorities (which, btw, doesn’t exist). With Planned Parenthood, it’s abortion. Once they pick the organization, they produce propaganda with people like James O’Keefe. The media has no choice but to cover it, even if the O’Keefes of the world are discredited in the process. Then Congressional Republicans try to close the organization. If they succeed, the organization shutters. If they fail, they’ve rallied their base around a cause that makes them forget the awful economic and social policies that should get them to defect from the party.

The tactics the GOP and Fox News used against ACORN, relentlessly repeating accusations against the group, are instructive in the case of Planned Parenthood. So much of the argument in favor of Planned Parenthood on social media has been “abortion comprises a small portion of what Planned Parenthood does.” While this is important for context, it won’t sway conservatives. They don’t care. It is in their political interest to tie abortion to Planned Parenthood. There were no connections between ACORN and voter fraud (because, again, voter fraud statistically doesn’t happen), but they still used the issue to shiv the community organizing group. The only way to save Planned Parenthood will be to celebrate all of the services it provides and convince moderate and left-leaning lawmakers of its importance.

Conservatives have attacked Planned Parenthood since its inception in 1916, long before abortion was a Constitutional right. Providing contraception challenged traditional gender roles, which has always been what irked conservatives about the organization. Many conservative voters don’t know that the Hyde Amendment, passed in the mid ’70s, already prohibits federal funding for abortions. The defunding of Planned Parenthood isn’t about cutting off an organization from abortion funding, but about punishing an organization that provides abortions and women’s health care. Again, this is because Republicans don’t actually care about the facts, they care about symbols. In nominating Donald Trump, they showed the Christian Right they have no real concern for their agenda. They invent issues like these to throw a bone to their religious base without actually providing them with anything resembling friendly policy.

ACORN fell because Democratic politicians wouldn’t stand up for the organization once it became toxic. The political calculation was that their constituents didn’t care that much about ACORN while Republicans made it difficult to support them. The way to save Planned Parenthood, then, is going to be pressuring Democrats to fight for it, not backing off of championing Planned Parenthood’s abortion services. Not only is abortion an essential part of what Planned Parenthood does, but even if it weren’t, Planned Parenthood would forever remain a symbol of abortion rights for conservatives. This isn’t just about abortion. Planned Parenthood stands for women’s rights, just as ACORN stood for the rights of the poor and minorities. Republicans would be trying to defund PP no matter what, as it is an affront to their corporate patriarchal worldview. Asserting Planned Parenthood’s right to exist will be a better tactic than compromise, since the real argument is that both Planned Parenthood and abortion should be no more.

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