Sen. Sam Brownback blasted fellow GOP presidential hopeful Tom Tancredo this week for accepting contributions from John Tanton, a Michigan doctor whom Brownback’s campaign describes as “a founder of a major Planned Parenthood network.” Tanton is no stranger to criticism, but in the past he’s usually been denounced as a xenophobe – not as a supporter of abortion rights.
Tanton’s stances as pro-choice, anti-immigration and pro-environmental conservation stem from his ardent belief in population control. Yet his involvement with the pro-choice movement is limited to founding and chairing the Northern Michigan Planned Parenthood Association from 1965 until 1971. His involvement with anti-immigration groups, including a few that some see as hate groups, goes much, much deeper. According to a 2006 article that appeared in the magazine In These Times, Tanton has long been a behind-the-scenes force in anti-immigration organizations:
Tanton may not make headlines, but even a casual dusting of today’s anti-immigration movement reveals his fingerprints everywhere. Turn on Lou Dobbs and you’ll see experts from the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the nation’s oldest and most influential immigration restriction group, which Tanton founded in 1979. Scan the newspapers and you’ll find Republican lawmakers reporting a tidal wave of calls from members of NumbersUSA, which Tanton cofounded. Watch the committee hearings on C-SPAN and you’ll hear anti-immigration talking points lifted straight from the Center for Immigration Studies, another Tanton creation. And on and on.
In 2002 Tanton landed on the cover of the Intelligence Report, a publication of the Southern Poverty Law Center with the mission of “monitoring hate and extremest activity.” The article detailed Tanton’s history of organizing anti-immigration groups and accused some of them of having increasingly strong ties with white-supremacist hate groups. The article also discussed memos written by Tanton to others in his anti-immigration network:
The memos were replete with derogatory references to Latinos, reflecting a kind of entrenched bigotry that had only been suspected before. They complained mightily of the high Hispanic birth rate suggesting that Latin American immigrants would bring political corruption to the United States.
The memos included a demographic punchline that depicted Hispanics as hyperactive breeders and revolted many readers: “[P]erhaps this is the first instance in which those with their pants up are going to get caught by those with their pants down.”
Although Brownback’s attack doesn’t mention it, Tancredo and Tanton’s organizations go way back. As the founder and chairperson of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus until earlier this year, Tancredo was often lobbied by anti-immigration groups with links to Tanton.
In no way has Tanton been proven to be a card-carrying racist, but such accusations have been made more than once. The question is, should that be more of a concern for Brownback than the fact that Tanton was a pro-choice activist 40 years ago?