Cheryl Sullenger

Complaints filed against Wichita abortion clinic owner over missing $37,000 in PAC contributions

Cheryl Sullenger
By Cheryl Sullenger

An Operation Rescue Special Report
Co-authored with Deborah Myers

Wichita, KS, July 30, 2013 (OperationRescue.org) – Operation Rescue has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), and the Kansas Bureau of Investigations (KBI) against Trust Women PAC demanding a full investigation of the political action committee that appears to be partially funding a “for-profit” abortion clinic in Wichita, Kansas. The complaint lists eight classes of violations of the Federal Campaign Election Laws and Commission Regulations. It also documents possible criminal conduct.

Operation Rescue staff poured over volumes of Trust Women PAC filings and discovered that from July 2011 to present, not one report has been acceptably filed. The FEC has issued 12 separate Requests for Additional Information (RFAI) letters to Trust Women PAC in regard to errors, inconsistencies, and failure to file.

In fact, documentation shows that Trust Women’s bookkeeping is so shoddy that it has thus far resulted in FEC fines totaling $4,268, not counting steep fees imposed for collection attempts.

Over $37,000 vanishes

But perhaps most troubling is the discovery that at least $37,118 of PAC money has simply vanished without a trace. In addition, there is at least $72,000 more – a quarter of all contributions made to the Trust Women PAC since 2011 – for which there has been no proper accounting.

Operation Rescue is demanding full investigations to determine if financial crimes, such as embezzlement and/or money laundering, have occurred.

PAC money pays for abortion business expenses

Trust Women PAC is operated by Julie Burkhart, who is also the Executive Director of South Wind Women’s Center (SWWC), a new abortion clinic located in the building that was once owned by late-term abortionist George Tiller. Burkhart employs two fly-in abortionists, Cheryl Chastine of Chicago, Illinois, and Valencia Stevens of Arizona. Burkhart has used PAC funds to pay operating expenses for her abortion business. She has also used employees on the payroll of the PAC to staff her abortion clinic.

There is no record that the SWWC has ever reimbursed the Trust Women PAC even one cent of the money it spent to operate the for-profit business. One has to wonder how much Chastine and Stephens know about the Wichita abortion business’ shoddy bookkeeping.

“It looks like Burkhart might be ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul,’” said Troy Newman, President of Operation Rescue. “If her abortion business was profitable, surely she would not have to dip into PAC funds to pay for abortion clinic business expenditures. This is an indication that South Wind Women’s Center is on the ropes financially with the blame falling on Burhart’s mismanagement.”

Eight Categories of Violations

The alleged violations contained in the complaint include:

1. Failure to report contributions to Federal Candidates/Committees and Other Political Committees in a proper manner
2. Failure to classify disbursements in a proper manner
3. Failure to file a single acceptable report since July 2011
4. Consistent error in calculation and reporting of cash on hand and disbursements
5. Engaging in political advocacy within the state of Kansas without registering with the state
6. Submission of reports through a non-authorized treasurer
7. Use of PAC funds and resources to operate a for-profit business (South Wind Women’s Center abortion clinic in Wichita, Kansas)
8. Disbursements of funds to non-existent entities sharing the Trust Women PAC address.

“Is this gross incompetence on the part of Burkhart, or is it criminal conduct? We think it is the latter, and that’s why we are asking for a full investigation into financial malfeasance,” said Newman.

Money flows one way

Burkhart has used PAC funds to pay for items for the abortion clinic such as a washer and dryer. That expenditure was listed as a disbursement for the Primary 2012 election cycle, which ended seven months prior to the purchase.

The Trust Women PAC also paid for SWWC’s web hosting, internet marketing, and even robes for use by the abortion business. SWWC’s abortion consent forms are sent to potential customers via a Trust Women PAC e-mail address belonging to a PAC paid employee, Katie Knutter.

“Money only flows one way: from the Trust Women PAC into the coffers of South Wind Women’s Center. Profits from South Wind are pocketed by private individuals. It is all very irregular,” said Newman.

Where did the money go?

But there are literally thousands of Trust Women PAC dollars for which there is no accounting. In the Trust Women PAC filings, it is common for the beginning balance for one reporting period to be several thousand dollars less than the ending balance for the previous reporting period. In all, Operation Rescue has discovered that $37,118.13 has simply disappeared.

There are questions that must be answered. Is this a matter of incompetent accounting or unlawful activity? The shoddy FEC reports raise suspicions that South West Women’s Center could be acting as a money laundering scheme for PAC employees through which they embezzle funds, without suspicion of malfeasance.

“We have to wonder what happened to all that cash. One day the money is there and the next day it’s gone,” said Newman. “If someone is pocketing the money, it could be embezzlement, which is a serious crime. We are turning all the evidence over to the FEC, FBI, and Kansas Bureau of Investigation for further inspection to determine if laws have indeed been broken.”

Unauthorized to file

Part of the problem is that Burkhart associate Amber Lockner has attempted to file reports on behalf of Trust Women PAC, but none have been accepted since Lockner is not the treasurer of record and has no authority to file. Burkhart made attempts to file Amended Statements of Organization, but all have been rejected due to the fact that Burkhart and Lockner did not submit the statements electronically, as required. In fact, the two appear not to have mastered the electronic submission process, resulting in reports that have been repeatedly rejected by the FEC.

Shadowy political groups get funds

Documents show that Trust Women PAC spent thousands of dollars on political mailings and GOTV calls in Wichita, as well as a contribution to the Kansas Senate campaign of leftist Tim Snow. These expenditures would constitute illegal campaign activity since Trust Women PAC never registered with the State of Kansas as required by law.

However, that is not the only thing suspicious about Trust Women PAC’s illicit involvement in Kansas politics.

In the 2012 year-end report, Trust Women PAC lists a disbursement to American Action League for $2,000 for GOTV calls. The address listed as belonging to American Action League is the same as that used by Trust Women PAC. However, there is no business called “American Action League” registered with the Kansas Secretary of State. Where did the $2,000 really go?

Another disbursement entry found in the same report indicated that Trust Women PAC paid $9,750 to an entity called “Trust Women PAC (Non-Federal)” for more GOTV calls. However, no such committee exists. The Trust Women PAC is not registered as a “non-federal” entity. This represents yet another block of cash that appears to have gone to a non-existent entity for which there is no accounting.

Modus Operandi

This is a documented pattern of behavior for Burkhart. In 2006, during the hotly contested race for office of Attorney General between incumbent Republican Phill Kline and Democratic challenger Paul Morrison, Burkhart was the director of a political action committee founded and funded by late-term abortionist George Tiller called “ProKanDo.” It was no secret that ProKanDo opposed abortion clinic investigations underway in Kline’s office, especially since Tiller was a target. The election was influenced by a glut of mailings worth about $1 million attacking Kline that were put out by a “non-profit” organization called, “Kansans for Consumer Privacy Protection.” Soon after the election, which Kline lost, the “non-profit” organization closed down, ending efforts to investigate it for improper political activity.

Burkhart was listed as a co-chair for Kansans for Consumer Privacy Protection, which shared the same address as Burkhart’s ProKanDo.

The entire matter of Burkhart’s unregistered political organizations operating in the shadows of unaccountability – funded by other Burkhart groups – is completely irregular. In order to protect the integrity of elections, a thorough investigation into this shady practice must be conducted.

Who gave and who received?

Another apparent violation discovered in the volumes of FEC reports is the failure to itemize many political contributions and disbursements. This means that thousands of dollars from unknown sources are flowing in and out of the PAC to unknown pockets for unknown reasons. In the past two years, over $72,000 in receipts were non-itemized – more than half of all PAC contributions! This amount is in addition to the funds that simply went missing.

“The reason that PACs must file detailed financial reports with the FEC is to ensure that illegal contributions are not taking place and that the money is being used legitimately,” said Newman. “It appears very much like regulations are in fact being broken by Burkhart and Lockner on a routine basis.”

Competency in question

The incompetence – and perhaps criminality – reflected in the Trust Women PAC reports also raises serious questions about the competency of Burkhart to operate an abortion clinic, where women entrust their lives and health. However, given Burkhart’s PAC filings and her history of double-dealing, it is difficult to put much trust in any endeavor in which she is involved.

It has become apparent that South Wind Women’s Center is financially “under water” and must access PAC funds to stay afloat. In fact, Burkhart is delinquent $2,900 in property taxes for the clinic facility – another indication that Burkhart’s PAC and abortion clinic are suffering financial difficulties.

“If these people cannot figure out how to properly add and subtract, file a form online, or pay their bills, we question their overall competency in every other business matter,” said Newman. “The shoddy reports are a red flag alerting us that their incompetence is likely a systemic problem. If that is found to be true, women are in grave danger at South Wind Women’s Center.”

Read the letter of complaint (with links to referenced documents)
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Vatican’s doctrine chief: ‘Absolutely anti-Catholic’ to let bishops conferences decide doctrine or discipline

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By John-Henry Westen

VATICAN, March 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has rejected outright the idea floated by Germany’s Cardinal Reinhard Marx that various bishops’ conferences around the world would decide for themselves on points of discipline or doctrine. 

“This is an absolutely anti-Catholic idea that does not respect the catholicity of the Church,” Cardinal Müller told France’s Famille Chrétienne in an interview published today

The question was raised because Cardinal Marx, the head of the German Catholic bishops’ conference and a member of Pope Francis’ advisory Council of Nine, told reporters that the German bishops would chart their own course on the question of allowing Communion for those in “irregular” sexual unions.

“We are not a subsidiary of Rome,” he said in February. “The Synod cannot prescribe in detail what we should do in Germany.”

Vatican Cardinal Müller remarked that while episcopal conferences may have authority over certain issues they are not a parallel magisterium apart from the pope or outside communion with the bishops united to him.

Asked specifically about Cardinal Marx saying that the Church in Germany is “not a subsidiary of Rome,” the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said pointedly “the president of an Episcopal Conference is nothing more than a technical moderator, and as such has no special teaching authority.”  He added moreover, that the dioceses in a particular country “are not subsidiaries of the secretariat of an Episcopal conference or diocese whose Bishop presides over the Episcopal Conference.”

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The CDF head warned that “this attitude makes the risk of waking some polarization between the local churches and the universal Church.” He did not however believe that there was the will for Episcopal conferences to separate from Rome.

The important interview also saw Cardinal Müller contest the notion that the pastoral practice or discipline could change while retaining the same doctrine. “We can not affirm the doctrine and initiate a practice that is contrary to the doctrine,” he said.

He added that not even the papal Magisterium is free to change doctrine. “Every word of God is entrusted to the Church, but it is not superior to the Word,” he said. “The Magisterium is not superior to the word of God. The reverse is true.”

Cardinal Müller rejected the notion that we would have to modify Christ’s unflinching words totally forbidding divorce and remarriage.  We cannot “say that our ministry should be more cautious than Jesus Christ Himself!”  Nor could we, he added, say that Christ’s teaching is out of date or that “we need to correct or refine Jesus Christ because He lived in an idealistic world.” 

Rather, the cardinal said, bishops must be ready for martyrdom.  Quoting Jesus he said, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and if we speak all kinds of evil against you because of me.”

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‘Groundbreaking’: Kansas may become first state to ban dismemberment abortions

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By Ben Johnson

TOPEKA, KS, March 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Kansas will become the first state in the country to ban a procedure in which unborn children are dismembered in the womb, if Gov. Sam Brownback signs a bill that recently passed the state legislature.

The state House passed a ban on dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortions, called dismemberment abortions in common parlance, by 98-26 on Wednesday.

The Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act, which had already passed the state Senate in February 31-9, now heads to Gov. Brownback's desk.

Brownback, a staunch defender of life, is expected to sign the act into law.

"Because of the Kansas legislature's strong pro-life convictions, unborn children in the state will be protected from brutal dismemberment abortions," said Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, which has made banning dismemberment abortions a national legislative focus.

The procedure, in which an abortionist separates the unborn child's limbs from his body one at a time, accounts for 600 abortions statewide every year.

Nationally, it is “the most prevalent method of second-trimester pregnancy termination in the USA, accounting for 96 percent of all second trimester abortions,” according to the National Abortion Federation Abortion Training Textbook.

“It’s just unconscionable that something happens to children that we wouldn’t tolerate being done to pets,” Katie Ostrowski, the legislative director of Kansans for Life, told The Wichita Eagle.

Leading pro-life advocacy groups have made shifting the debate to dismemberment a national priority, with similar legislation being considered in Missouri and Oklahoma. Mary Spaulding Balch, J.D., who is NRLC's director of state legislation, called the bill's passage in Topeka “groundbreaking.”

"When the national debate focuses only on the mother, it is forgetting someone," she said.

The abortion lobby has made clear that it is uncomfortable engaging in a public relations tussle on this ground.

Elizabeth Nash, the senior state issues associate of the Guttmacher Institute, said that dismemberment is “not medical language, so it’s a little bit difficult to figure out what the language would do.”

On the state Senate floor, Democrats tried to alter the bill's language on the floor by replacing the term “unborn child” with fetus. “I know some of you don’t believe in science. But it’s not an unborn child, it’s called a fetus,” said state Senator David Haley, D-Kansas City.

If the bill becomes law, the abortion industry has vowed to fight on.

Julie Burkhart, a former associate of late-term abortionist George Tiller, said the motion's only intention is “to intimidate, threaten and criminalize doctors.”

“Policymakers should be ashamed,” she said, adding, “if passed, we will challenge it in court.”

Gov. Brownback has previously signed conscience rights protections and sweeping pro-life protections into law.

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How NOT to move beyond the abortion wars

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By Anne Hendershott

March 26, 2015 (CrisisMagazine.com) -- A few years ago, when an undergraduate student research assistant of mine—a recent convert to Catholicism—told me that he was planning to meet with a well-known dissenting Catholic theology professor who was then ensconced in an endowed chair at a major metropolitan Catholic university, I told him: “Be careful, you might end up liking him too much.” I jokingly told my student not to make eye contact with the theologian because he might begin to find himself agreeing with him that Catholic teachings “really allow” for women’s ordination and full reproductive rights—including access to abortion.

I was reminded of that conversation this week when I began reading a new book by yet another engaging Catholic theology professor at a major metropolitan university who also claims (pg 6) that the argument he puts forward in his book, Beyond the Abortion Wars, is “consistent with defined Catholic doctrine.” Written by Charles Camosy, associate professor of theology at Fordham University, the new book purports to be in line with Catholic teachings and promises “a way forward for a new generation.” But, Camosy delivers yet another argument for a woman’s right to choose abortion when confronted with an unborn child that he has described—in the past—as an “innocent aggressor.”

Indeed, Camosy has spent much of his career trying to convince us that he knows Catholic teachings better than the bishops. Criticizing Bishop Olmsted for his intervention and excommunication of a hospital administrator for her role in the direct abortion at a Phoenix Catholic hospital, Camosy suggested in 2013 that “the infamous Phoenix abortion case set us back in this regard.” Implying that Bishop Olmsted was not smart enough to understand the moral theology involved in the case, Camosy claimed that “The moral theology in the case was complex—which makes the decision to declare publicly that Sr. McBride had excommunicated herself even more inexplicable. The Church can do better.” For Camosy, “Catholics must be ready to help shape our new discussion on abortion. And we must do so in a way that draws people into the conversation—not only with respectful listening, but speaking in a way that is both coherent and sensitive.”

This new book is likely Camosy’s attempt to “draw people into the conversation.” But, there is little in his book that is either coherent or sensitive. Claiming to want to move “beyond” the abortion wars, Camosy creates an argument that seems designed to offend the pro-life side, while giving great respect to those who want to make sure abortion remains legal.

Especially offensive for pro-life readers will be Camosy’s description of the abortifacient, RU-486 as a form of “indirect abortion.” The reality is that RU-486, commonly known as the “abortion pill,” effectively ends an early pregnancy (up to 8 weeks) by turning off the pregnancy hormone (progesterone). Progesterone is necessary to maintain the pregnancy and when it is made inoperative, the fetus is aborted. For Camosy, who claims that his book is “consistent with settled Catholic doctrine,” this is not a “direct” abortion. To illustrate this, Camosy enlists philosopher Judith Jarvis Thompson’s 1971 “Defense of Abortion”—the hypothetical story of the young woman who is kidnapped and wakes up in a hospital bed to find that her healthy circulatory system has been hooked up to a famous unconscious violinist who has a fatal kidney ailment. The woman’s body is being used to keep the violinist alive until a “cure” for the violinist can be found. Camosy makes the case—as hundreds of thousands of pro-choice proponents have made in the past four decades—that one cannot be guilty of directly killing the violinist if one simply disconnects oneself from him. Likewise, for Camosy, simply taking the drug RU 486 is not “directly” killing the fetus. He writes:

The drugs present in RU 486 do not by their very nature appear to attack the fetus. Instead, the drug cuts off the pregnancy hormone and the fetus is detached from the woman’s body…. Using RU 486 is like removing yourself from [Judith Jarvis Thompson’s] violinist once you are attached. You don’t aim at his death, but instead remove yourself because you don’t think you have the duty to support his life with your body…. Some abortions are indirect and better understood as refusals to aid (pp 82-83).

Perhaps there are some readers who will find Camosy’s argument convincing, but I am not sure that many faithful Catholic readers will agree that it is consistent with settled Catholic doctrine.

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As one who is hardly a bystander in the abortion wars, I wanted to like this book. As an incrementalist who celebrates every small step in creating policy to protect the unborn, I had high hopes that this book would at last begin to bridge the divide. A decade ago, in my own book, The Politics of Abortion, I joined the argument begun by writers like Marvin Olasky in his Abortion Rites: A Social History of Abortion in America, that it is more effective to attempt to change the hearts and minds of people than to create divisive public policy at the federal level. I share Charles Camosy’s desire to end the abortion wars—but this war cannot end until the real war on the unborn ends. This does not mean that the two sides cannot work together—battling it out at the state level—where there is the opportunity for the greatest success. But, complex philosophical arguments on whether RU 486 is a direct or indirect form of abortion are not helpful to these conversations.

Camosy must know that we can never really “end” the abortion wars as long as unborn children are still viewed as “aggressors” or “invaders” and can still be legally aborted. Faithful Catholics know that there is no middle ground on this—the pro-life side has to prevail in any war on the unborn. It can be done incrementally but ground has to be gained—not ceded—for the pro-life side. Besides, Camosy seems a bit late to the battlefield to begin with. In many ways, he seems to have missed the fact that the pro-life side is already winning many of the battles through waiting periods, ultrasound and parental notification requirements, and restrictions on late term abortion at the state level. More than 300 policies to protect the unborn have been passed at the state level just in the past few years. The number of abortions each year has fallen to pre-Roe era levels—the lowest in more than four decade.   Much of these gains are due to the selfless efforts of the pro-life community and their religious leaders. Yet, just as victory appears possible in many more states, Camosy seems to want to surrender by resurrecting the tired rhetoric—and the unconscious violinists—of forty years ago.

While it is disappointing, it is not unexpected considering Camosy’s last book lauded the contributions of Princeton’s most notorious professor, Peter Singer—the proponent of abortion, euthanasia and infanticide. Claiming that Singer is “motivated by an admirable desire to respond to the suffering of human and non-human animals,” Camosy’s 2012 book, Peter Singer and Christian Ethics: Beyond Polarization, argues that, “Though Singer is pro-choice for infanticide, on all the numerous and complicated issues related to abortion but one, Singer sounds an awful lot like Pope John Paul II.”  In a post at New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, a progressive organization led by Rev. Richard Cizik (a former lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals who was removed from his position because of his public support for same sex unions, and his softening stance on abortion) Camosy wrote that he found Singer to be “friendly and compassionate.”  Camosy currently serves on the Advisory Board of Cizik’s New Evangelical Partnership—where he has posted Peter Singer-like articles including: “Why Christians Should Support Rationing Health Care.”

One cannot know the motivations of another—we can never know what is in another’s heart so it is difficult to know why Charles Camosy wrote this book. It must be difficult to be a pro-life professor at Fordham University—a school known for dissenting theologians like Elizabeth Johnson. But, if one truly wants to advance a culture of life in which all children are welcomed into the world, it would seem that inviting Peter Singer to be an honored speaker to students at Fordham in 2012 is not the way to do it, nor would claiming that RU-486 “may not aim at death by intention.” Perhaps it is unwise to continue to critically review Camosy’s work from a Catholic perspective because it gives such statements credibility—and notoriety. But, as long as Camosy continues to claim that his writings and policy suggestions—including his newly proposed “Mother and Prenatal Child Protection Act”—are “consistent with defined Catholic doctrine,” faithful Catholics will have to continue to denounce them.

Reprinted with permission from Crisis Magazine. 

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