Posts tagged "Karen Handel"

MACON, Ga. – 2014 is a Republican year. The party has the map, the candidates, and the money to finally retake the Senate after blowing the last two tries by nominating weak ultra-conservative candidates in critical races. And there’s no way that’s happening again, right?

Not if Georgia has anything to say about it.

The solid red state is shaping up as a key boost to Democratic hopes of retaining the Senate thanks to a GOP primary field both sides believe could produce a nominee too hobbled, too extreme, or too gaffe-prone to win in November.

The candidate causing the biggest headache is Paul Broun, a four-term GOP congressman who opposes abortion without exception, thinks the Big Bang and evolution are “lies straight from the pit of hell,” (gravity waves be damned), and likened President Obama to Hitler and Karl Marxbefore he was even inaugurated.

Then there’s fellow Rep. Phil Gingrey, a doctor who suggested last year that Todd Akin was “partly right” about his theories on “legitimate rape” (Gingrey later apologized).

Even if Broun and Gingrey come up short in the state’s May 20 primary, Democrats are hoping a close race will pull the entire GOP field, which also includes Rep. Jack Kingston, former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, and wealthy businessman David Perdue, uncomfortably to the right. 

In normal circumstances, even a weak GOP nominee would probably be a shoo-in in this conservative state. But Democrats have drafted an unusually strong candidate in Michelle Nunn, whose father Sam Nunn is still revered here for his 25-year career in the Senate.

“What a lot of people don’t understand about the Republicans in Georgia is that up to 2002 a lot of them had a ‘D’ next to their name,” Erick Erickson, the Red State founder who briefly flirted with running himself, said. “They’re very comfortable with names like Carter and Nunn.”

Republicans are bracing for a rough ride, knowing their candidates will battle each other through the primary and likely July 22 runoff while Nunn soaks up a deluge of cash and attention unimpeded.

“One of the people on this stage tonight is going to be your Republican nominee, and after this primary and the runoff they are going to be bruised, battered and broke,” conservative radio host Martha Zoller told the audience at a Republican Senate debate in Macon earlier this month.

Polling is all over the map right now: A survey by Democratic firm Public Policy Polling right before the Macon debate found Broun opening up a double digit lead in the primary, with 27% support to 14% for Gingrey and the rest roughly tied for third place, while a slightly more recent poll by SurveyUSA put Perdue at 29%, Kingston at 19%, and the rest hovering around 10% support.

The stakes couldn’t be higher. For two election cycles in a row, Republicans have almost taken the Senate only to watch flawed candidates like Christine O’Donnell in Delaware in 2010 and Todd Akin in Missouri in 2012 cost them winnable races.

On the Democratic side, Georgia is one of only two top tier pickup opportunities, the other being Kentucky where polls show Republican Leader Mitch McConnell in trouble. For both parties, the path to a Senate majority runs directly through the Peach State.

“It’s an uphill battle in the Senate, but one of the things we have going for us is that Republicans might keep being the gift that keeps on giving and say one outrageous remark,” Jim Manley, a former top aide to Majority Leader Harry Reid, told msnbc.

Race to the right

Georgia’s Republican primary doesn’t fit into a neatly wrapped establishment vs. tea party narrative (think Rand Paul versus Trey Grayson in Kentucky in 2010) or moderate vs. conservative (like Charlie Crist versus Marco Rubio in Florida in 2010.) Any GOP candidate aspiring to statewide office here knows you have to be pro-life, pro-gun, anti-Obamacare, anti-taxes, and willing to play ball with the grassroots in order to stand a chance.

“We’re not identical, but I don’t think there’s a nickel’s worth of difference in our bona fides on the conservative side,” Perdue said in an interview. 

This is pretty much the consensus among the field. “It’s certainly a conservative group,” Gingrey said. 

Broun, nicknamed “Dr. No” for his constant ideological votes against House leadership, conceded to msnbc that, “certainly all our Republicans are conservative to one degree or another.”

Even a candidate like Kingston, who is often pegged as the field’s “establishment” guy, boasts strong ratings from conservative groups, supported an earmark ban under President George W. Bush, and received tea party supportin his failed attempt to take over the Appropriations Committee. Lately, he’s proposed requiring public school students to perform janitorial work in exchange for free lunches.  

His biggest sin in the eyes of some activists is having been in Congress a long time: Handel has gone after him for voting for large spending bills over the years with earmarks attached for things like the Edward Kennedy Institute in Massachusetts.

“It’s kind of easy to vote ‘no,’ but to actually cut a budget you have to go ahead and get in the arena and you get a little mud on your face,” Kingston said in an interview.

With the entire group starting so far to the right, it can be hard for any one candidate to stand out. Still, they try their best.

Everyone supports the Second Amendment, for example, but only Broun’s campaign has raffled off an AR-15, the semi-automatic rifle made infamous by the Newtown school massacre. The whole field wants to get rid of Obamacare, but only Gingrey has promised not to run for re-election if he hasn’t successfully repealed it in one Senate term. Gingrey and Kingston have joined Broun in regularly voting against Republican bills from the right in order to prevent any one of them from gaining separation.

In debates, the candidates emphasize their biographical distinctions while competing with each other for the most anti-liberal sound bites. The Macon forum, for example, was a Russian nesting doll of populist conservative resentment.

Kingston attacked Harry Reid while Gingrey condemned “rap music,” Hollywood, and trashy music videos for corrupting the youth (“What does the federal government do about it?Nothing!”). Broun accused Gingrey and Kingston of being typical Washington Republicans (“What separates me from my two colleagues here: I’ve never requested an earmark.”). Handel said all three have served too many terms in Washington (“[They] had a combined 42 years to do everything they’re talking about!”) Perdue went after the three of them plus Handel for having held elected office at all (“If you like what’s going on in Washington, pick one of those four politicians.”). 

“It’s been halfway a contest to see who can dislike Barack Obama more,” Todd Rehm, a Republican strategist and editor of, told msnbc.

Each candidate is also skilled enough to know exactly when to pull back from the anti-government jeremiads, namely when the topic turns to federal spending inside Georgia.

All the major contenders are incensed that Obama has yet to approve funding for a project to deepen the port in Savannah. At the Macon debate, Broun said the state needs more highways while Perdue bemoaned the lack of infrastructure spending in recent years. Asked about potential military base closures that could harm the state’s economy, Broun said the country requires more warships, more planes, and a bigger standing army while Kingston boasted: “I don’t want to kill a fly with a sledgehammer, I want to kill a fly with five sledgehammers.”

Culture clash

The candidates are well aware of party fears that they’ll produce the next Todd Akin and steer clear of social issues when possible. Even Broun is putting the fire and brimstone on ice for now. 

“We’re not going to be voting in the Senate on my religious beliefs,” Broun told msnbc. “We’re going to be voting on trying to shrink the size and scope of government.”

Just because the campaign isn’t wading deep into social issues today doesn’t mean things will stay that way.

Nobody knows how fast things can zoom to the right better than Handel, whose 2010 run for governor turned on the kinds of esoteric culture wars that make national party leaders cringe. Then-candidate Nathan Deal relentlessly attacked Handel for her past association with the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay GOP group, while the abortion fight wandered into extreme territory.

Georgia Right to Life, the state’s most prominent anti-abortion group, opposed Handel because she favored exceptions to an abortion ban in cases of rape and incest and because she supported in vitro fertility treatments. Handel hit back hard, calling her own unsuccessful attempts to have children “the single greatest disappointment in my life.”

GRTL president Dan Becker accused Handel of using her personal grief over being “barren” and “infertile” to justify taking innocent lives. She ended up losing by only about 2,500 votes.

Today, Handel is one of the most famous (or infamous, depending on your views) anti-abortion advocates in the country, and the battle looks somewhat ridiculous as a result. After leaving government, she took a job as vice president for public policy with Susan G. Komen, the breast cancer advocacy group. There she led the group in cutting funding to Planned Parenthood for mammogram screenings, sparking a backlash that ended with her resignation.

“In the governor’s race I wasn’t pro-life enough, fast forward and I became too pro-life,” Handel told msnbc. “My life is a string of ironies, what can I say?” 

This time around, the only Senate hopeful to win GRTL’s endorsement is Broun, which he secured by refusing to vote for a ban on abortions after 20 weeks supported by the National Right To Life Committee. That’s because the bill, which Gingrey and Kingston supported, included rape and incest exceptions.

Republican strategists are skeptical if GRTL still has the same clout it once did, but if Broun wins it will be because he managed to rally the most hardcore anti-abortion and pro-gun activists to his side. Primary races – and especially runoffs – are low turnout affairs in Georgia, which can lead to upsets for candidates with motivated supporters. Broun won his own Congressional seat in 2007 by defeating a heavily favored Republican opponent in a sleepy special election runoff. 

“If it’s Paul Broun in the runoff, I think Republicans in Washington collectively soil themselves,” Red State’s Erickson said.

Money talks

Democrats are hoping Broun will stay competitive enough to push everyone to the right, but his candidacy could also have a freeing effect: if his rivals assume that Broun has a lock on the most conservative primary voters, they might turn their attention to winning moderate Republicans, many of whom are concentrated in the Atlanta suburbs.

Perdue, the former CEO of Dollar General and Reebok and cousin of former GOP Gov. Sonny Perdue, is betting on this theory. While conventionally conservative on the major issues in the race, he’s positioning himself as a relatively non-ideological outsider. He has been critical of Senator Ted Cruz’s recent efforts to use the debt ceiling as a bargaining chip, for example, which he warns could frighten investors. While strongly opposed to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law, he’s said that he favors working with Democrats to amend it instead of the usual repeal calls. 

“I don’t believe I have to give up my conservative ideals to offer up a compromise position in order to get progress,” he told msnbc. “I’d rather take an 85% solution on the economic issues then sit here and get 0%.”

Perdue bears more than a passing resemblance to Mitt Romney, another well-coifed candidate from a political family who ran for office on his record in the private sector. Unlike Romney, whose complex buyout deals became a liability, Perdue’s most successful business ventures are easier to explain and quantify: his boast that he created 20,000 jobs while running Dollar General passes muster with Politifact, for example. 

Perdue’s personal wealth means he can self-fund and his polling surge has come during a period where he dominated the airwaves with an ad casting his four main opponents as crying babies. He’s uniquely problematic for Handel, who ascended the ranks of Georgia politics as a protégé of Sonny Perdue. The former governor is now backing his cousin’s campaign and Handel has struggled to raise cash without his network. Broun, who has never been popular with big donors, had just $187,000 cash on hand at the end of 2013.

Money matters a lot in Georgia campaigns, where advertising in the Atlanta media market is expensive. Kingston had $3.42 million in the same filing period thanks to a significant war chest left over from past campaign and Gingrey had $2.36 million, giving both the potential for a serious run.

Breaking from the PAC 

In another time, Broun’s lack of funds might have been disqualifying. But in the era of the super PAC, all it takes is one advocacy group or wealthy patron to vault a candidate into contention.

“That is the big question mark, whether the super PACs come in,” Joel McElhannon, a Georgia Republican strategist, told msnbc. “It has the potential to be a big game changer.”

Right now, the outside spending scene resembles Europe 1914, with the major powers – anti-establishment groups like Club For Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund on one side, more traditional pro-business groups like the Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads on the other – staying tentatively neutral while events play out on the ground. If any one of them decides to enter the race, however, it could suck them all into a massive air war.

McElhannon raised another possibility: Democrats might pour money into a super PAC of their own to boost Broun’s chances. It’s less paranoid than it sounds. In 2012, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill helped ensure Akin got the GOP nomination in Missouri with winking “attack” ads highlighting his conservative positions for Republican primary voters. 

The party line among state and national Democratic officials right now is that Georgia’s GOP candidates are equally flawed, but some leaders have cheered Broun on fairly openly in the past.

“If there is a living God, we’ll be facing him as the Republican nominee in November of 2014,” Mike Berlon, then-chairman of the state Democratic party, told USA Today last year. “Unfortunately, we’re probably not that lucky.” 


h/t: Benjy Sarlin at MSNBC


Child labor, impeachment, legitimate rape: This has got to be one of the craziest elections ever.

Michelle Nunn has to be the favorite, if she’s running against Paul Broun or Phil Gingrey. 

The issues:

The Georgia Senate race is proving how difficult it is for Republicans to ditch the party’s extremist image. In fact, they risk repeating 2012 mistakes where Tea Party candidates proved too far right for voters, like in the cases of Indiana’s Richard Murdouck and Todd Akin.

It’s still early in the seven-way Republican primary for Georgia Senate — a field including Reps. Phil Gingrey, Jack Kingston and Paul Broun, as well as former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel. The candidates have only held three of seven debates three months before the primary, but they have already taken controversial stands on positions ranging from defending child labor to impeaching the president.

Legitimate rape “partially right”: Gingrey, a self-described pro-life OB-GYN and former House Science committee member, defended Todd Akin’s infamous comments on women’s bodies shutting down pregnancy when there is a “legitimate rape.” Gingrey said Akin was “partially right wasn’t he?”

No immigration reform, but yes to English as official language: Most of the field oppose immigration reform and the three House members running for the seat are on the record to deport undocumented youth. But in the last debate, Broun said, “The only new law I’d like to see passed is one that makes English the official language of America.” Handel is the exception, recently softening her position on reform and calling out fellow Republicans for their laser-like focus on the U.S.-Mexican border and ignoring other problems.

Impeach Obama: At a debate, Broun, a birther, called for Obama’s impeachment for so-called perjuring “himself on multiple occasions” (candidate Derrick Grayson agreed).

Minority voter outreach: During the last presidential election, Gingrey denounced Democratic minority outreach efforts as “worse than sad.” His colleague Broun has described the Civil War as the “War of Yankee Aggression,” and expressed surprise when airport security didn’t profile a “Middle Eastern” man and him go “right through” security.

Make low-income kids work for lunch: Jack Kingston suggested low-income students sweep cafeteria floors because there’s “no such thing as free lunch.” Yet the congressman has expensed hundreds of thousands of dollars in free meals on the campaign trail and in taxpayer dollars.

Evolution “lies straight from the pit of hell”: Broun, who sits on the House Science committee, denies climate change and said that evolution, embryology, and the Big Bang theory are “all lies straight from the pit of hell.” He’s not the only creationist: Kingston once said, “I believe I came from God, not from a monkey so the answer is no. I don’t believe that a creature crawled out of the sea and became a human being one day.”

Gun giveaways: In January, Broun raffled off an AR-15, the same gun model used to murder 26 children and adults in Newtown.

Obamacare helps people with “hang nails”: According to Gingrey, the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act was “one of the worst decisions in Supreme Court history.” Gingrey dismissed the law’s protection of pre-existing medical conditions as nothing more than protecting people with “hang nails and fever blisters.”

Remember two years ago when the Susan G. Komen For the Cure foundation abruptly dropped its grants to a Planned Parenthood breast-cancer screening program, setting off a national outcry, and prompting the resignation of the Komen official reportedly behind the decision?

The fallout of the debacle is still hurting Komen, which recently reported a 22 percent drop in income over the past year. But the decision to cut off grants to Planned Parenthood seems to be paying off for one person: Karen Handel, the former Komen vice president who was widely reported to have been the driving force behind split.

Now running for Senate in Georgia, Handel has released a campaign video touting her role in severing Planned Parenthood from Komen and fighting back against the “left-wing groups” and “liberal media” that criticized her.


In speeches and interviews, Handel has made the Planned Parenthood showdown a centerpiece of her biography. She even paved the way for her Senate run by releasing a book calling Planned Parenthood “thugs” and “bullies.”

Whatever Handel’s motivations or role in the Komen/Planned Parenthood split, the whole episode seems to be working out pretty well for her. The decision that Handel advocated for might have left Komen struggling financially, but Handel herself now has the perfect story to prove her status as an anti-choice activist martyred by the liberal media.

ATLANTA — If there’s a formula for winning as a Democrat in Georgia, Michelle Nunn thinks she’s found it: Don’t sound like a liberal, hold your Republican friends close, and never leave a loose end hanging.

The 47-year-old daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn is running as an earnest, pro-business centrist in a solidly red state, drawing national attention and raising millions of dollars.

For Democrats, she represents the strongest opportunity to capture a Senate seat that Republicans have held for the last decade. The most recent poll has her tied or leading all of her potential opponents.

Much is riding on her candidacy: If Nunn can use her famous name, middle-of-the-road message, and campaign discipline to turn Georgia purple, Senate Democrats are much more likely to hold onto their slim majority in a tough election year.

Republicans insist Georgia voters are conservative to the core and won’t be fooled by a candidate who’s already entered the embrace of Washington Democrats. Nunn, who’s never run for office before, is taking little for granted.

Volunteering at an Atlanta food bank before Christmas, Nunn carried out her role meticulously, squinting at the expiration date on the bottom of every can she sorted through.

She zeroed in on every stranger she passed, greeting them warmly with a handshake. She stood at attention with her hands behind her back, leaning in as employees described the intricacies of food distribution. After the event, she tried to make good on a promise of donuts for her children, aged 9 and 11, in exchange for coming along, striding over to the family car as it was leaving the parking lot.

With her wire-rimmed glasses, slight frame, and unassuming air, Nunn projects a sober, bookish sense of purpose. Democratic strategist Ed Kilgore, who worked for Nunn’s father, recalls accompanying the family to a conference in New Orleans while Michelle was still in her 20s. He asked Michelle’s mother what her daughter might like to do while they were there.

“Michelle?” Colleen Nunn said. “Michelle doesn’t like to have fun.”

Georgia Democrats had pleaded with Nunn to run for office for years, wringing their hands as the state turned deep red. Since 2010, Republicans have held every major statewide office in Georgia—the first time they’ve done so since Reconstruction—and many residents are skeptical that change is coming any time soon.

But the state’s shifting demographics could tip that balance as more African-Americans have returned to the South and the immigrant population has grown in recent years. That’s prompted another Georgia Democrat with a famous last name—Jason Carter—to jump into the governor’s race. But right now, Democrats in Georgia and Washington alike believe that Nunn is their best shot at a comeback.

Born in Perry, Georgia, where her grandfather was once mayor, Nunn spent most of her childhood in the suburbs of Washington D.C. while her father served in Congress. After graduating from the University of Virginia, she became what she now calls the “glorified intern-slash-executive director” of Hands On Atlanta, a fledging volunteer service group. In 2001, she received a Master’s from Harvard’s Kennedy School and married Ron Martin, who works in real estate. 


Supporters acknowledge that Nunn is not a conservative southern Democrat of yore. “The question that comes up is, ‘Is she more liberal than her old man?’ I think the answer is yes. But certainly the Georgia Democratic Party is too,” said Kilgore, a long-time friend of Michelle’s. “He self-identified as a conservative, not as a moderate or centrist. That kind of Democrat barely exists in the state anymore.”

Kilgore still believes she is a natural dealmaker, and Nunn herself insists that her professional track record proves she’s willing and able to extend a hand to Republicans. But of all policy issues, volunteer service may be among the least controversial and most anodyne—the thing that most everyone can agree upon.

The 2014 political landscape is a minefield for red-state Democrats like Nunn. Obamacare is the ultimate test of her determination to run as a no-nonsense, above-the-fray independent.

Nunn is quick to point out that she was “one of the first people to come out” for a delay of the individual mandate after problems emerged with the website. When asked whether Obamacare can ultimately succeed, she neither defends nor attacks the law wholesale, declining to cast judgment on it one way or the other.

“My focus has been on what we can do to actually fix this. We need to make health care work for Americans, and we need to do whatever it is to do that.” But she believes Georgia should embrace Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, which the GOP governor turned down.

Like her father, Nunn considers herself a deficit hawk and says Democrats haven’t been flexible enough on entitlement reform. She personally supports gay marriage but agrees with the Supreme Court that the definition of marriage should be left to the states. Endorsed by the pro-choice EMILY’s List, Nunn has said abortion should be “safe, legal and rare and that women should be ultimately able to make this very difficult personal decision in concert with their doctor and their family.” 

And when she openly sides with Democrats, she’s careful to couch her support in terms that conservative voters might find palatable: No additional food stamp cuts—but tackling hunger will require “public-private partnerships,” not just federal money. Sequestration is terrible, she argues, and then points to the damage it has done to Robins Air Force Base. The shutdown was wrong, and she blames all sides for the dysfunction in Washington.

“I think both parties have some responsibility for the partisan gridlock, so we need people who are interested in finding common ground,” she concludes.

The Nunn campaign is hoping that her measured tone will draw a sharp contrast with her eventual Republican opposition.

The Senate primary is set for May 20, and the GOP field is already crowded with contenders. In addition to former Secretary of State Karen Handel, who’s considered the moderate choice, the field also includes staunch conservatives.

Among them are Rep. Paul Broun, who recently said the only way Georgia would turn purple is if “illegal aliens” had to the right to vote, and Rep. Phil Gingrey, who said Todd Akin was “partly right” in his infamous claim about “legitimate rape.” Rep. Jack Kingston recently suggested that low-income students should sweep floors in exchange for receiving free school lunches.


After the Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure’s decision to defund Planned Parenthood, attention has focused on its Vice President for Policy, Karen Handel. She joined the group last January after a failed run for governor in Georgia, where she had advocated defunding Planned Parenthood.

But there’s another woman who deserves equal credit: Americans United for Life President Charmaine Yoest. It’s her group that issued a report last fall, “The Case for Investigating Planned Parenthood,” that led to a probe by the Energy and Commerce Committee. And it’s that investigation that puts Planned Parenthood in violation of Komen’s new policy that bars funding of groups under investigation.

Yoest has run Americans United for Life for three years. She came to the group from former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign, and before that, served as the Family Research Council’s vice president for communications. She moved to Washington in the 1980s to work in the Reagan administration. But she counts this as perhaps her biggest victory.

WASHINGTON — Senator Saxby Chambliss, the Georgia Republican who helped lead efforts to find a bipartisan deficit reduction compromise, announced on Friday that he would retire at the end of 2014, a decision likely to set off a battle on the Republican Party’s right flank for a successor.

Already, organizations backed by the Tea Party were stirring interest in a primary challenge for Mr. Chambliss over his embrace of new revenues as a part of any comprehensive deficit package. Representatives Tom Price and Paul Broun, two Republican doctors and ardent conservatives from Georgia, had expressed interest in a possible challenge.

But without Mr. Chambliss in the picture, the Senate contest in Georgia could shape up to be a battle royale on the right. Other possible candidates could include Herman Cain, a failed presidential candidate, and Karen Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state who ran for governor in 2010 with the backing of Sarah Palin. Ms. Handel lost that contest but went on to a senior position at the Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast cancer foundation, where she championed a controversial move to withhold financing for Planned Parenthood cancer screenings.

In a statement, Mr. Chambliss took pains to say he did not fear losing a primary challenge.

“Lest anyone think this decision is about a primary challenge, I have no doubt that had I decided to be a candidate, I would have won re-election,” he said. “In these difficult political times, I am fortunate to have actually broadened my support around the state and the nation due to the stances I have taken. Instead, this is about frustration, both at a lack of leadership from the White House and at the dearth of meaningful action from Congress.”

Democrats insisted they would make a run at his seat.

“Georgia will now offer Democrats one of our best pick-up opportunities of the cycle. There are already several reports of the potential for a divisive primary that will push Republicans to the extreme right. Regardless, there’s no question that the demographics of the state have changed and Democrats are gaining strength. This will be a top priority,” said Guy Cecil, executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

But in a mid-presidential term election, Georgia will present a steep climb for the Democratic Party.

h/t: The New York Times

Ex-Komen VP Handel: “Planned Parenthood ‘literally co-opted the color pink’ from breast cancer” (via Raw Story )

Former senior vice president of public policy for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation Karen Handel said that Planned Parenthood had “literally” stolen the color pink in its branding from the breast cancer research organization during an event at the Family Research Council headquarters in Washington, D.C. to promote her new anti-Planned Parenthood book. “To them, Planned Parenthood literally co-opted the color pink. And for most people the color pink is associated with what? The fight against breast cancer,” Handel continued. “But Planned Parenthood cloaked itself in that color. Their website changed to pink. Everything they did was pink, pink, pink. Wrapping themselves in what I would call, if you will, a cloak of legitimacy in an effort to gain credibility.” Planned Parenthood routinely through its political advocacy organization endorses pro-abortion pro-Planned Parenthood candidates, including Barack Obama. How is that not a violation of campaign finance and IRS [501](c)4 rules?” Handel asked. “I would ask you this, if the NRA [National Rifle Association], if FRC, through its (c)4 was out blatantly campaigning for a particular individual or a particular candidate, don’t you think the wrath of the DOJ and the IRS would be raining down on you? I would guess it would be.”


The former Susan G. Komen for the Cure executive who orchestrated the organization’s controversial and short-lived break from Planned Parenthood earlier this year, is out with a new book claiming that the funding dispute was all Planned Parenthood’s fault. In “Planned Bullyhood,” Karen Handel claims that Planned Parenthood turned its back on a “gentlewomen’s agreement” to not discuss the fact that Komen was withdrawing $680,000 a year in grants for breast cancer screenings through the organization’s clinics and then turned on Komen in a PR blitz.

Handel, an anti-choice activist and former GOP candidate who reportedly pushed the move within Komen, resigned shortly after the news of the break caused a national firestorm.

In interviews with right-wing radio hosts Janet Mefferd and Janet Parshall last week, Handel portrays herself as the victim of bullying by the “vicious” Planned Parenthood. She tells Mefferd that Planned Parenthood launched “a mafia-style attack” and that “Komen was held hostage for a mere $680,000.” She sees a double standard in the fact that President Obama didn’t call her after she was criticized, “like he did Sandra Fluke.”

Handel: The left and Planned Parenthood, they were threatening Komen’s corporate sponsors: “See what we’re doing to Komen? If you don’t stop supporting them, we’re gonna do the same to you.” They were just filling up the Facebooks, Twitter, Komen’s website crashed, there were bomb threats, corporate sponsors were threatened. It really was almost a mafia-style attack, if you will, and Komen was held hostage for a mere $680,000. And Planned Parenthood and the left, they wanted this to be about politics. I believe they used Komen purposefully as a pawn, if you will, in this ridiculous so-called “War on Women” and these cries of “women’s health.” And Janet, my question for you, and I just find this all so insulting, how in the world did the issue of women’s health get reduced to being about abortion and contraception?

Mefferd: Right. I’m with you.

Handel: I just reject that. I reject that notion, and I think that most women do too.

Mefferd: Oh, completely. And what I found very interesting, Karen, doing the show that I do, and being pro-life and knowning a lot of pro-lifers, when Susan G. Komen made that decision and all the pro-lifers were going “Yes, finally, great!,” the next thing people were saying was, “Now watch what Planned Parenthood will do to them.” You know, we knew. We knew exactly how Planned Parenthood would react, though admittedly it was more over the top than I think a lot of us believed it would be. It was shameful what they did.

 Parshall: Planned Parenthood’s assault, to use your word, and by the way you started using that word back in February of this year, way before it became the title of your book, if they’re bullying people because they might have a pro-life position, it really calls into account whether they are pro-women or whether they are politically aligned rather than rising to a higher cause.

Handel: I think that’s right, I think you’ve really hit on it, Janet. And for Komen, that’s exactly what Komen was trying to do. Komen wanted to be in a place where everyone, regardless of whether they were pro-life or on the other side of the issue, would be able to embrace the organization and embrace the mission. We wanted to be neutral and we wanted to be good stewards of dollars. Don’t get me wrong, it was both. Planned Parenthood, on the other hand, they were willing to sacrifice Komen for the sake of their agenda, which is not about women’s health. If it was about women’s health, they would not have wanted to try to destroy an organization that was doing such good work in the area of breast cancer.

h/t: Miranda Blue at Right Wing Watch

Karen Handel, the former Susan G. Komen executive who spearheaded the effort to stop sending breast cancer screening grants to Planned Parenthood, alleges in her new memoir that Komen’s decision was “so nonpolitical” that the charity was unprepared for Planned Parenthood’s “vicious mugging” in response.

Handel’s book, entitled Planned Bullyhoodand scheduled for release on September 11, paints Planned Parenthood and its president, Cecile Richards, as “a bunch of schoolyard thugs,” The Daily Beast reports. In the book, Handel insists that the decision to defund the family planning provider was about money, not abortion. Komen was trying to restructure its grant program to cut out what Komen President Liz Thompson has referred to as “crappy grants” — grants to organizations like Planned Parenthood that do not directly provide mammograms, Handel says. (Planned Parenthood provides physical breast exams and mammogram referrals.)

Komen was also under pressure from the Catholic Bishops to cut off grants to Planned Parenthood because it offers abortions, Handel writes, and she was hired to come up with the least politically conspicuous way to pull the organization’s grant. Because Handel was an outspoken anti-abortion candidate for governor of Georgia in 2010, she says, the media assumed the decision was based on her personal abortion stance.

The backlash against Komen was significant: numerous progressive advocacy organizations, members of Congress, members of the public and some of Komen’s own affiliates denounced the decision and pressured Komen to fire its board and top executives.

Handel blames the negative portrayal of her entirely on Planned Parenthood.

"It’s clear that Planned Parenthood went out of its way to paint me as some sort of a zealot—a Trojan-horse zealot who came into Komen and within 10 to 11 months had completely turned the place upside down," she writes in the memoir. "That’s clearly not who I am and it’s not what happened."

Eric Ferrero, vice president of communications for Planned Parenthood, said he would not comment on the specifics of the book, but lamented that Handel continues to “inject politics into breast cancer detection.”

h/t: Laura Bassett at Huffington Post

The Associated Press reports that Komen Foundation vice-President Karen Handel has quit the cancer charity. 

As soon as news broke a week ago that the organization would cease to fund Planned Parenthood, media reports centered on the former politician as a potential source for the decision. Handel, who was hired in April of 2011 after an unsuccessful run for Governor of Georgia, had campaigned saying she would cut state money to Planned Parenthood. A report from the Huffington Post Monday cited sources within Susan G. Komen for the Cure naming Handel as the force behind the decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood.

Handel’s resignation came in a letter delivered to Komen officials Tuesday morning. 

Komen’s decision to change its granting strategy and exit the controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood and its grants was fully vetted by every appropriate level within the organization. At the November Board meeting, the Board received a detailed review of the new model and related criteria. As you will recall, the Board specifically discussed various issues, including the need to protect our mission by ensuring we were not distracted or negatively affected by any other organization’s real or perceived challenges. No objections were made to moving forward.

I am deeply disappointed by the gross mischaracterizations of the strategy, its rationale, and my involvement in it. I openly acknowledge my role in the matter and continue to believe our decision was the best one for Komen’s future and the women we serve. However, the decision to update our granting model was made before I joined Komen, and the controversy related to Planned Parenthood has long been a concern to the organization

h/t: Pema Levy at TPM

And I really didn’t need to know this to consider Komen Senior VP Karen Handel a thoroughly loathsome human being (the retweet said volumes in just a few characters) but John Aravosis has dug up Handel’s bigoted, Christian fundamentalist views on LGBT people from less than two years ago, though they read as though they are from the 1960s.

First, I want to say though I anticipate never having to confront the dilemma of an unwanted pregnancy myself, I unequivocally stand by a woman’s right to make her own reproductive choices, and against this insane environment that is demonizing Planned Parenthood.

In fact, the first night I heard about it I was so enraged I, like so many others, burned up my Twitter feed yelling at @komenforthecure and retweeting anyone who, like me, was equally outraged at this outrageously stupid decision.

I was so enraged—and I am not making this up—a New York Times reporter contacted me to talk about grassroots pushback. Who knows? I might get quoted. I think I pointed him to more newsworthy subjects though.

Great answer, Karen. Don’t let the interviewer confuse you with what science or theAmerican Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics or American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association have to say about the topic of gay parenting. That’s just crazy elitist scientist talk.

I am struck by the fact that campaigning for governor she “absolutely” would consider championing a ban on gay adoption, and had she been elected she “absolutely” would have been in a position to do so.

This is a policy position that can only be justified if one totally rejects all accepted scientific studies that have found no adverse, in fact, even more favorable than average outcomes for children raised in LGBT households. Nevermind all that, Handel has her Jesusy opinions and nothing will change her mind.

With such complete disregard, even contempt, for science and the expertise of child-care experts, it begs the question what guides her decision-making process relative to her position of authority on a medical charity?

Maybe in phase two of this public relations effort Handel will explain to us how all those disadvantaged women who depend on Planned Parenthood’s services can just pray the cancer away?

Aravosis says, “No self-respecting gay person should give a dime to the Race for the Cure. There are other breast cancer charities that aren’t religious right sycophants.”

I agree. Screw Komen. They have jumped into the deep end of the hard right extremist Palin pool of the GOP. To Hell with them all.

Click to donate to Planned Parenthood.

h/t: Scott Wooledge at Daily Kos