Republican Reps. Darrell Issa of California, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Chris Smith of New Jersey are calling for a probe to investigate whether Obama administration officials are violating federal law by using taxpayer money to lobby for a new constitution in Kenya that supports and legalizes abortion.
“The U.S. is spending taxpayer money on Kenya’s constitutional referendum,” Issa told The Daily Caller. “The underlying concern is that U.S. funds and efforts are being used to interfere in Kenya’s internal debate over abortion, which is part of the debate over the new constitution. There is evidence that U.S. funds are supporting groups and events with a pro-abortion agenda and that funds have been spent to advance a specific outcome on the referendum. If so, this would violate federal law.”
Article 26 of the proposed Kenyan constitution states that abortion is allowed if “in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment or the life or health of the mother is in danger or if permitted by any other written law.”
In a letter sent to Inspectors General of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the lawmakers voiced their concerns.
“The Obama administration’s advocacy in support of Kenya’s proposed constitution may constitute a serious violation of the Siljander Amendment and, as such, may be subject to civil and criminal penalties …” the letter reads.
Passed in 2006, the Siljander Amendment prohibits the use of federal funds for abortions, stating that “none of the funds made available under this Act may be used to lobby for or against abortion and violations are subject to civil and criminal penalties under the Antideficiency Act.”
According to the lawmakers’ letter, the criminal penalties the Obama administration officials could face include a fine of up to $5,000 and imprisonment for up to two years. Civil punishment would include suspension of duty without pay or termination.
Despite the clear language in the law, at least two government officials have come dangerously close to violating it. Last month in a speech in Kenya, Vice President Joe Biden promised prosperity if the country adopted the new constitution.
In his address, Biden offered incentives — including increased U.S. aid — to Kenyans on behalf of the Obama administration.
“The United States strongly supports the process of constitutional reform … Dare to reach for transformative change, the kind of change that might come around only once in a lifetime,” said Biden during that speech. “If you make these changes, I promise you, new foreign private investment will come in like you’ve never seen,” he added.
In the second instance, U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger told Kenyan officials that the U.S. was prepared to shell out $2 million to support the process of adopting a new constitution and the “implementation of the reform agenda,” according to FOX News.
For Issa, Smith and Ros-Lehtinen, that incentivizing is no different then lobbying for a pro-choice constitution. Nor is advocating for a “reform agenda” acceptable if it really means “legalized abortions.”
According to Jeff Sagnip, a spokesman for Smith, the $2 million promised by Rannegberger is only the beginning. While waiting on final reports, it looks like at least $11 million has been funneled through the State Department to lobby for the Kenyan constitution, Sagnip told TheDC.
“Abortion providers have been recipients of taxpayer money under the radar,” said Sagnip.
When asked by TheDC if Rep. Smith is confident that the reports will prove beyond a doubt that members of the Obama administration have been lobbying for changes in abortion law, Sagnip said “preliminary reports already indicate there’s more money here than we thought. We’ve seen it grow the last month and a half. It’s just a matter of how much higher.”
“The GAO is poised to get the ball rolling … we’re going to stay on top of it till we have more answers,” said Sagnip.
Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America — both pro-choice advocacy groups — did not return multiple requests for comment. Planned Parenthood has family-planning outreach programs based in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.
According to the organization’s website, its work in Kenya “currently focuses on reducing maternal death and disability by increasing the availability of affordable safe abortion services and supporting advocates to decriminalize abortion in the country.”