- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

This should have been a banner week for women with a woman governor (and potential vice-presidential candidate by many accounts) giving the Democratic Party’s response to President Bush’s State of the Union address. But Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has been a disappointment when it comes to representing women’s interests, with unfortunate shades of deja vu of a feminist standing behind a man accused of sexual harassment.

The story begins with Mrs. Sebelius persuading a local district attorney, Paul Morrison, to leave the Republican Party to run as a Democrat for Kansas attorney general in 2006. With a massive influx of out-of-state abortion industry money and support from organizations such as Planned Parenthood, Mr. Morrison was elected attorney general.

He defeated Phill Kline, the incumbent who was investigating alleged illegal activity at late-term abortion clinics, including a Planned Parenthood clinic in Johnson County, a suburb of Kansas City. Once Mr. Morrison replaced Mr. Kline as attorney general, he publicly dropped the investigations. In a twist worthy of a movie, Mr. Kline replaced Mr. Morrison as district attorney of Johnson County.

Mr. Kline doggedly pursued his suspicions and late last year a district judge found probable cause on 107 felony and misdemeanor counts against Planned Parenthood, which included performing illegal late-term abortions and falsifying abortion records.A grand jury in Kansas is currently investigating these allegations, as well as charges against Planned Parenthood for covering up statutory rapes of underage girls.

In early December, Mr. Morrison, who is married, found himself embroiled in a sex and criminal scandal involving a former employee, Linda Carter. She had filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sexual-harassment claim against him with sordid details of sex in courthouses and threats to destroy her career. And, her claim alleges, Mr. Morrison tried to use her position as office manager in Mr. Kline’s office to obtain inside information about Mr. Kline’s prosecution of Planned Parenthood.

Mrs. Sebelius’ hand-picked attorney general admitted the sexual indiscretions were true and resigned — but the resignation was not effective until yesterday. The governor has remained curiously silent about the criminal scandal involving Mr. Morrison. Instead of immediately removing him from office she has permitted him to stay — just as she takes the national stage as the Democratic Party’s representative, a coming out many believe will heighten her stature as a potential vice-presidential candidate and future runs for national office.

What does this say to the women of Kansas and the rest of the country? Women who aspire to high office have no less an obligation than their male counterparts to be people of integrity and character. Mrs. Sebelius may not have known at the time that the man she recruited to be her top law enforcement officer had serious baggage. But she did know Mr. Morrison would drop the investigations against politically and financially powerful late-term abortion providers that faced serious allegations of covering up statutory rape of girls. He based his campaign on that.

The Democratic Party’s choice to elevate Mrs. Sebelius to national stature in the midst of a scandal within her administration is both curious and brazen. Either party leaders believe the national media will ignore the story because, after all, it’s just Kansas. Or they believe the media are so fixed on a Democratic victory in November that they just don’t care.

These same party leaders have wrongly believed over the years that women vote as a monolithic bloc, and they would never reject one of their own gender no matter how tainted. Once again, they underestimate the very women for whom they claim to be champions.

Now that both Mr. Morrison and Planned Parenthood face criminal allegations, Mrs. Sebelius’ silence betrays her tacit support for both of them. With confessions now made public and court proceedings going forward, she cannot blame their troubles on a vast right-wing conspiracy. Her focus may be on her future ambitions but people across the country now begin to take the measure of Mrs. Sebelius they should also be aware of her recent and present judgment. Forgoing the safety of women in exchange for powerful political allegiances is the last thing women are looking for in a national leader. Women, and all of us, deserve better.

Wendy Wright is president of Concerned Women for America. Andrea Lafferty is executive director of Traditional Values Coalition. Jennifer Giroux is president of Women Influencing the Nation.

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