Two anti-abortion legislators said Thursday that a reception Gov. Kathleen Sebelius had with abortion provider Dr. George Tiller might prompt them to seek restrictions on how her official residence is used.
TOPEKA (AP) — Two anti-abortion legislators said Thursday that a reception Gov. Kathleen Sebelius had with abortion provider Dr. George Tiller might prompt them to seek restrictions on how her official residence is used.
But a Sebelius spokeswoman said existing guidelines are sufficient, and another anti-abortion legislator said there’s no need for new restrictions.
Rep. Lance Kinzer, an Olathe Republican, and Sen. Tim Huelskamp, a Fowler Republican, said the reception shows Sebelius is willing to sell access to Cedar Crest to political supporters.
Tiller attended an April 9, 2007 reception that the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue has described as a “lavish secret party” for Tiller, the staff at his Wichita clinic and several other abortion providers. The group posted 13 photos from the event on its Web site.
Sebelius’ office said Tiller won the right to have the reception as the highest bidder on it during an auction held by the Greater Kansas City Women’s Political Caucus. It advocates electing women who support abortion rights to public office, and in 2002, it gave Sebelius an award for being “a role model of political accomplishment.”
“I think there’s just something really unseemly about auctioning off access to the governor’s mansion to political contributors,” Kinzer said. “I think it’s something that needs to be looked at.”
He added: “If the KKK had been the highest bidder to the women’s political caucus or whatever group that was, do you think they would have had a soiree at the governor’s mansion? I really don’t.”
Huelskamp said Sebelius should release a list of everyone she’s entertained at Cedar Crest and her reasons for doing so.
“We’d consider legislation if we can’t find out who all’s been staying there, going there and using that,” he said.
But Rep. L. Candy Ruff, a Leavenworth Democrat who also opposes abortion, said contemplating legislation is “a bit absurd.”
“Whether you’ve got a Democrat or Republican, pro-life or pro-choice, it’s the woman’s home,” Ruff said.
Sebelius spokeswoman Nicole Corcoran noted that guidelines about the use of the residence have been set by Friends of Cedar Crest, a nonprofit group that includes legislators and Topeka residents. She said that oversight “has served the state well.”
“It’s where the governor lives and where professional and personal events are scheduled for her and her family,” Corcoran said.
Operation Rescue said it obtained photos from the event from someone who attended, declining to identify that person. Six photos showed Sebelius next to Tiller, and two showed them shaking hands.
At the time, Tiller was under investigation by the attorney general’s office over allegations that he has performed illegal late-term abortions.
Less than three months later, the attorney general filed 19 misdemeanor charges against Tiller in Sedgwick County District Court. The complaint alleges that Tiller failed to get a second opinion on some late-term procedures from an independent physician, as required by law. Tiller has denied all wrongdoing, and the case is pending.
Tiller is among a few U.S. physicians who perform late-term abortions, and his clinic is the site of regular anti-abortion protests.
Sebelius is a strong abortion rights supporter who’s repeatedly vetoed legislation sought by anti-abortion groups. State ethics commission data shows Sebelius received $12,450 from Tiller, his wife or his medical practice from April 1994 through September 2001, but none since then.
The last contribution came while she also was raising money for a potential run for governor in 2002 but before she’d officially kicked off her campaign.
Ruff called Tiller’s attendance at the reception “a non-issue.”
“She certainly supports abortion rights,” Ruff said. “He legitimately got there — so what?”
But Kinzer said: “Is it really appropriate for an event at the governor’s mansion to be the item that you win at an auction for giving money to a political supporter of the governor?”
On the Net:
Governor’s office: http://www.governor.ks.gov
Kansas Legislature: http://www.kslegislature.org
Dr. Tiller’s clinic: http://www.drtiller.com
Operation Rescue: http://www.operationrescue.org