- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Republican congressmen on Wednesday accused the Obama administration of illegally funneling more than $23 million in taxpayer money toward a proposed Kenyan Constitution that has permissive language on abortion.

The funding of pro-constitution agencies in Kenya was discovered as a result of an audit by the inspector general of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Sending foreign assistance money to support legislation on abortion is illegal under the Siljander Amendment, which states that “no foreign assistance funds may be used to lobby for or against abortion.” 

The proposed 206-page Kenyan Constitution, up for public referendum on Aug. 4, would overturn the current law that permits abortion only when the life of the mother is at risk and add a health exception that pro-lifers say would essentially allow abortion on demand. Further, the new constitution specifically would allow for even looser laws in the future.

Republican Reps. Christopher H. Smith of New Jersey, the ranking member on the House Foreign Relations subcommittee on Africa, and Frank R. Wolf of Virginia held a press conference on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to air the information, which they obtained from an audit on which the USAID inspector general is still working.

Republican Reps. Darrell Issa of California and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida also have expressed support for investigating the legality of USAID spending on the Kenyan Constitution.

U.S. funding should not be used to tell the Kenyan people how to vote,” Mr. Smith said. “The draft constitution, with its contentious provisions dramatically expanding abortion, is a matter for the Kenyan people to consider and decide themselves.” 

Original estimates put the price tag of U.S. involvement in the pro-constitution movement at $2 million, then jumped to $11 million, and were placed at $23 million last week. 

The USAID documentation obtained by Mr. Smith shows the U.S. sending hundreds of thousands of dollars to 10 groups that USAID itself describes as favoring a “yes” vote on the Kenyan Constitution.

More of the groups listed in the audit strongly support the constitution, like the “special committee selected by [the] government to support the proposed constitution,” which received $99,995 in U.S. taxpayer money. Another group received $91,106.66 intended to “marshal a coalition of pro-constitutional individuals.” 

Furthermore, many of the groups specifically advocate for women’s rights, such as the Foundation for Women’s Rights, which received $160,000 in U.S. taxpayer money. 

“There’s no ambiguity to it,” Mr. Smith said of the groups lobbying for abortion, adding that the Obama administration had violated the Siljander Amendment. The amendment is named for its sponsor, Mark Siljander, a former Republican congressman from Michigan.

The House members based their complaint on an audit that USAID says has not been completed or released to the public. Mr. Smith acknowledged that the audit wasn’t finished, but said the work that still needs to be done is immaterial to the issue he is highlighting. 

The USAID’s Inspector General declined to provide audit information to The Times.

Leslie Phillips, press officer at the USAID, provided only a general statement regarding U.S. involvement in the referendum and did not address Mr. Smith’s charges. 

Story Continues →