EDITORIAL: Murder, Inc.

Usually when a president picks a friend of a big but controversial industry to run a federal department that regulates that same industry, some eyebrows are raised. The press wonders how independent the nominee could be. Senators fret over the long financial relationship between the nominee and the controversial industry. In time, the White House quietly withdraws the nomination and insiders chortle that the administration never should have made such a foolish nomination.

That’s why the chief executive of Merck & Co. doesn’t get asked to run the Food and Drug Administration, or the state governor who raked in money from Exxon Mobil Corp. doesn’t get to run the Environmental Protection Agency. “Optics,” as they say.

So we are wondering why President Obama nominated Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to be the next Secretary of Health and Human Services. If confirmed, Mrs. Sebelius will control the purse-strings for the tens of millions in federal subsidies that flow to Planned Parenthood, and she will help steer the nation’s abortion policy. It is a clear conflict of interest. We are concerned because she has long been in the pocket of an industry she would be obligated to regulate: Abortion, Inc.

Mrs. Sebelius is a longtime friend of the abortion industry, a wealthy band of medical buccaneers. A doctor specializing in late-term abortions can rack up to $24,000 per day in fees. After a few years, that adds up to real money. And the industry is not shy about using its blood-stained money to buy friends in high office. The good governor has been very loyal to her industrial comrades, fighting even minimal safety regulations considered by Kansas lawmakers and championing government funding of abortions both at home and around the world. (Subsidies boost the Industry’s profits.)

Mrs. Sebelius at first failed to tell senators that she received $35,000 in personal and political-action-committee payments from Dr. George Tiller, who specializes in late-term abortions. But of course he does. Second- and third-trimester abortions are the most profitable. Later, it emerged that Dr. Tiller gave another $200,000 to ProKanDo, a political-action committee that torpedoed Mrs. Sebelius’ pro-life opponent during her 2002 election bid. So, in a nutshell, she received large sums from Abortion Inc., failed to tell the Senate, and only belatedly came clean.

If she were the cat’s-paw of any other industry, Mrs. Sebelius would be in trouble. Yet she appears to be sailing toward a sure confirmation, thanks in part to the support of Republican Sen. Sam Brownback, a fellow Kansan and one-time pro-life leader. The Industry is good to its friends, the way Standard Oil and Big Sugar once were. And it intimidates those it doesn’t buy.

Still, we wonder if some senator will be bold enough to ask Gov. Sebelius why the Abortion Industry should not be treated like tobacco, coal or any other special interest loathed by millions of Americans - and why does the Industry get to put its friends in charge of itself?

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