Machine politics is generally associated with cities, the cynical cronyism that is the prerequisite to wholesale corruption and urban decay. But these days it’s at its worst in, of all places, Kansas, under the governorship of leading Democratic vice-presidential contender, Kathleen Sebelius.
Just ask Phill Kline.
The former state attorney general and current district attorney of Johnson County, in suburban Kansas City, Kline is that most unfortunate of political creatures — the inspired reformer. The object of his quixotic campaign is to reform the abortion laws of Kansas – not by changing them, but by simply enforcing them.
In a place like Kansas, you might think, that’s T-ball politics — but that would only be in the Kansas of popular (and Thomas Frank’s) imagination, where wily conservatives are winning the culture wars. They’re definitely not, as Kline now knows well. He started his mission after being elected attorney general in 2002. After six years, he has been so badly mangled by Kansas’s political machinery that he’s the one under siege.
That’s his punishment for conducting a string of long and fruitful investigations that appear to show that the state’s largest abortion providers — including Johnson County’s Planned Parenthood clinic and George Tiller’s infamous late-term-abortion clinic in Wichita — have not only performed illegal abortions, they’ve also falsified documents as part of a cover-up.
A simple plan
Kline’s strategy was simple: Kansas law requires abortion clinics to document the procedures they perform. Kline suspected that they had performed illegal late-term abortions and abortions on underage girls. To find the truth, he needed to compare the documents sent by the subpoenaed clinics with the records submitted by the clinics to the state health department in the routine reporting of their abortions. It wasn’t a fishing trip; Kline knew what he was looking for.
When, after a long battle, the records finally arrived, Kline asked a district judge, Richard Anderson, to compare the two sets of documents. Anderson hired experts, removed the personal info, went over them all carefully and in a pre-trial hearing, finally said, “it appears someone has manufactured” portions of the paperwork that had been subpoenaed. Anderson said that could mean “that somebody committed a felony in an attempt to cover up a misdemeanor. . . . [T]here is evidence of crimes in those records that needs to be evaluated.”
That’s when things turned tough. Kline’s alleged perps aren’t exactly street-corner thugs. Tiller’s money has pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into the state’s political machine. He exerts enormous sway through his ProKanDo PAC and other funding conduits.
And Planned Parenthood’s no pushover, either, just by dint of the $300 million in taxpayer funding the organization gets every year.
Lately, they’re increasingly being portrayed as irresponsible in their abortion practices. In Texas, for example, Planned Parenthood has been accused of covering up statutory rape cases. In California, the organization’s accused of mismanaging funds. And in Ohio, where pro-life activists got Planned Parenthood operators on tape agreeing to funnel contributions to target African Americans, the parents of a 13-year-old girl are suing Planned Parenthood because neither they nor the police were informed when her 21-year-old soccer-coach “boyfriend” brought her in for an abortion. In Congress, Rep. Mike Pence, an Indiana Republican, is leading a campaign to end Planned Parenthood’s funding.