Published April 13, 2009
WASHINGTON -- President Obama's health secretary nominee got nearly three times as much political money from a controversial abortion doctor as she told senators.
The Health and Human Services Department said Monday that the omission was an oversight that Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius would correct.
In a response to questions from the Senate Finance Committee made public last week, Sebelius wrote that she received $12,450 between 1994-2001 from Dr. George Tiller, one of the nation's few late-term abortion providers.
But in addition to those campaign donations, records reviewed by The Associated Press show that Tiller gave at least $23,000 more from 2000-2002 to a political action committee Sebelius established while insurance commissioner to raise money for fellow Democrats.
Sebelius did not tell senators about that additional money, although Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., asked specifically about any Tiller donations to her PAC.
"There was an oversight in the initial answer provided to the committee," HHS spokesman Nick Papas said Monday. "Obviously donations to the PAC are a matter of public record. The governor is updating the answer to this question and will resubmit it to the committee."
It was the second time in her confirmation process that Sebelius had to explain a financial oversight to the Finance Committee. Earlier, she corrected three years' worth of tax returns and paid more than $7,000 in back taxes to fix improper deductions.
Anti-abortion groups have sought to make an issue of Sebelius' pro-abortion stances and her ties to Tiller, who was acquitted last month of misdemeanor charges stemming from procedures he performed but is now under investigation by the state medical board.
Opponents have criticized Republicans on the Finance Committee for not asking Sebelius about Tiller or abortion when she appeared for her confirmation hearing April 2. Senators raised the issue only in written questions submitted to Sebelius after her hearing, which were released last Thursday along with her responses.
"Can you describe your relationship with Mr. Tiller?" Kyl asked. "Has he ever contributed to your campaign or has your PAC ever received money from Mr. Tiller or a PAC related to Mr. Tiller?"
Sebelius responded: "I have been familiar with Dr. Tiller for many years because he lives and works in Kansas. Dr. Tiller, like many Kansans, contributed to my campaign for insurance commissioner. I received $12,450 over an eight-year period (1994-2001), which represented 1 percent of my total contributions during that time. Since that time, I have received no donations from Dr. Tiller or any PAC related to him."
What Sebelius left out: Campaign finance documents show that Tiller also contributed $10,000 to Sebelius' Bluestem Fund PAC in September 2000, and his clinic, Women's Health Care Services, contributed $8,000 to the PAC in December 2001 and another $5,000 in March 2002.
The Finance Committee was expected to vote this month on forwarding Sebelius' nomination to the full Senate. There was no immediate indication from committee Republicans that her omission on the Tiller contributions would upset that timing.
The anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, which is opposing Sebelius' nomination, circulated the campaign finance documents showing the discrepancy in what Sebelius told senators. The records were reviewed Monday by the AP and their accuracy was verified by the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission.