Anti-Choice Group Hit With State, Criminal Complaints
Heidi Group accused of misappropriating taxpayer funds, more
By Mary Tuma,
3:45PM, Tue. Sep. 26, 2017
A government watchdog is taking aim at an anti-choice group that won millions from state coffers.
Campaign for Accountability has filed a complaint with Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore’s office that seeks an investigation into whether the Heidi Group – a Round Rock-based anti-abortion nonprofit – violated state criminal law by misappropriating taxpayer funds. CFA is also calling on the IRS to see if the group violated its tax exempt status by lobbying and endorsing political candidates.
After ideologically banning Planned Parenthood from a women’s health program and crippling the state health network, Texas officials sought to replace the major health provider with a non-medical group headed by Carol Everett, an anti-choice author and activist who promotes crisis pregnancy centers. In 2016, the Health and Human Services Commission doled out a $1.6 million contract through the Healthy Texas Women program and another $5.1 million contract through the Family Planning Program, amid protest from pro-choice advocates. However, it became abundantly clear the completely unqualified group was failing to meet its basic goals, and in August HHSC stripped the Heidi Group of most of the state cash, bringing their total down to less than $1 million. Now, the D.C.-based watchdog group wants to make sure the anti-choice group doesn’t get away with their misuse of taxpayer funds.
“The Heidi Group was barely solvent before the state of Texas appropriated $7 million to fund it and has received little if anything to show for the money,” said CFA attorney Katie O’Connor. “Texas taxpayers deserve to know where their hard-earned money has gone.”
CFA’s six-month investigation of the Heidi Group revealed a “history of recklessness” when it comes to keeping finances. The anti-choice group has negative net assets; spent 11% of its expenditures on a cruise in 2004; and has been in debt to Everett since 2002. Heidi has provided “almost no work” after receiving millions in state dollars, they write. CFA also charges the group with violating their state contract by failing to provide deliverables including improved access to contraception and a 1-800 number that would help women find health care services. The federal complaint alleges Everett violated her 501(c)(3) status when she repeatedly testified for anti-choice bills at the Capitol and encouraged others to join, opposed moderate Republican Joe Straus for Speaker of the House, and didn’t maintain three independent board directors.
According to a voicemail obtained by CFA, Everett conceded to a staffer at the governor’s office in March 2017 that her organization was failing to meet its goals: “No, we don’t look good, and no, we’re not doing what I planned to do, and no, we’re not doing what I wanted to do.” Time will tell if state officials will take the serious pushback to heart, or try again to replace actual health providers with anti-choice activists ill-equipped to handle medical services.