Case against Kansas abortion rights PAC dismissed

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Federal regulators have dismissed an anti-abortion group’s complaint alleging that an abortion rights political action committee improperly financed the operations of a clinic in the late Dr. George Tiller’s former Wichita medical building.

Trust Women on Thursday released a copy of a notice from the Federal Election Commission about the agency’s dismissal this week of the complaint, filed last year by Operation Rescue, also based in Wichita. Trust Women, through a separate nonprofit foundation, opened the South Wind Women’s Center last year in the building that for decades had been Tiller’s clinic — one of a few in the U.S. known to perform abortions in the final weeks of pregnancy.

In addition to alleging that the now-disbanded Trust Women PAC covered the new clinic’s operating expenses, Operation Rescue said the PAC couldn’t account for tens of thousands of dollars and suggested the possibility of “malfeasance.” The FEC notice described those claims as “speculative.”

The PAC disclosed in finance reports to the FEC that it made $8,410 in loans to the clinic last year, buying robes, Web hosting and a washer and dryer. The federal agency said the loans were legal and if there were questions about whether they were improperly repaid with funds from a corporation — as opposed to an individual or partnership — the amounts were small enough that pursuing the issue “would not be an efficient use of the Commission’s resources.”

“I am happy that the commission dismissed these unsubstantiated and spurious complaints,” said Julie Burkhart, Trust Women’s founder and executive director.

Operation Rescue had asked the FEC to audit the PAC. Cheryl Sullenger, its senior policy adviser, said there are still questions about its finances that the federal agency should examine.

“Maybe that’s small potatoes for them, but for us it seems to be an ethical violation that demands a close inspection of their records,” she said.

Burkhart was an associate of Tiller, who was shot to death in May 2009 by a man who professed strong anti-abortion views.

Trust Women disbanded the PAC in May, but the nonprofit foundation is still operating the clinic.

Burkhart has said Trust Women was so busy with the clinic that it did not have time for the PAC. The FEC had previously levied $4,262 in penalties against the PAC for failing to meet reporting requirements.

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