Anti-abortion Republican candidate for governor Scott McInnis says he does not remember serving on the advisory board of Republicans for Choice, a political action committee ostensibly dedicated to supporting pro-choice candidates.
Papers filed with the Federal Election Commission, though, show that McInnis served on the organization’s board from June of 1996 through at least August of 2005. Filings submitted since then do not include the PAC’s letterhead, which lists its advisory board.
Republicans For Choice did not return multiple phone calls or emails.
Mcinnis served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993 until 2005, and was originally elected as a pro-choice candidate. By 1999, he was voting mostly against choice and by 2003 the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) had him rated at zero percent on its issues.
Yet after receiving that rating, he continued to serve at least two more years on the RFC board. Did the board actually offer advice in the running of the organization as implied or were members merely figureheads? It’s hard to say. RFC founder, chairwoman and treasurer Ann E. W. Stone earlier this year told the Center for Public Integrity that she relies on an advisory board to set the agenda for PAC spending.
Stephannie Finley, McInnis’s chief of staff for his first five years in Congress, said she does not specifically remember the McInnis making the decision to join the RFC board. She did say such a decision probably would have been made without a lot of discussion.
“He was pro-choice at that time and [then-U.S. Senator] Hank Brown was on that board. As a freshman representative, Scott looked to Senator Brown for guidance.”
She said that as votes came up regarding abortion rights, it didn’t take long for McInnis to realize that “his heart wasn’t in it and he began to take pro-life positions.”
She surmises that he simply forgot he had agreed to be on the board and hence never asked to be removed. She noted, however, that pro-choice Republicans came to be riled by McInnis when he started changing positions. “I’m surprised they kept him on the board,” she said.
Spending by Republicans for Choice has raised eyebrows over the years.
Since Stone founded the group in 1990, RFC has raised well more than $5 million but has spent almost none of that money to support pro-choice Republican candidates. The vast majority of money spent has gone for administrative costs, with the majority of that going either directly to Stone as reimbursement for expenses or to companies controlled by Stone— companies that also share an office with RFC.
Filings show RFC has directly reimbursed Stone more than $250,000 in the last nine years. But RFC also pays its rent to one of Stone’s companies and pays Stone companies for marketing, list management, web development, and accounting services. All told, about 70 percent of funds raised by RFC go to Stone or to companies in which she has an interest.
The Center for Public Integrity reported that just one half of one percent of PAC spending since 2005 has gone to support candidates. Prior to 2005, the picture is no different, with most years showing less than 1 percent to candidates in spite of income in six or seven figures during the PAC’s peak years. In 1996, the PAC raised $1 million. It raised $1.5 million in 1998. This year, the PAC is on pace to raise about $150,000 and its spending habits remain unchanged, with much of the money going to Stone or her businesses.
Stone was unavailable for an interview for this article but she has given interviews in the past and has said that RFC does more than support candidates. One of its major goals, she has said, is to elect pro-choice delegates at the local, state, and national levels.
She told the New York Times in 1990 that she was forming the group in order to support Republican candidates who support a woman’s right to have an abortion.
By way of contrast Republican Majority for Choice PAC, according to FEC filings, raised just under $54,000 in the first quarter of this year and gave exactly $54,000 to candidates and committees supporting candidates.
[Flickr Photo via McInnis for Colorado]