Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., ranking member of the committee, said in a fiery rebuttal that it was particularly hypocritical for Republicans to place Planned Parenthood under a microscope and take Richards to task over her salary when they had never taken an interest in the hefty compensations of executives at big banks, drug companies and defense contractors, who had all engaged in law-breaking.
“Last month, Lockheed Martin was fined millions of dollars for using taxpayer funds to lobby Congress to maintain its hold on a multibillion dollar Pentagon contract. Lockheed’s CEO received a stunning $33 million last year,” Cummings railed. “Ms. Richards, do you know if there has been any investigation or any effort — any — to eliminate Lockheed’s federal funding?”
“It sounds like there hasn’t been,” Richards answered.
“You got it, of course there wasn’t!” Cummings said. “These are huge companies that are actually guilty of breaking the law and their CEOs make millions of dollars — Republicans never criticize the salaries of their CEOs or they never try to strip their federal funding, their government subsidies or their tax breaks.”
GOP members batted back against the accusations of sexism and said they were entitled to a full accounting of how Planned Parenthood was using its $500 million in state and federal funds, through grants and Medicaid reimbursements.
“Surely you don’t expect us to be easier on you because you’re a woman?” Rep. John Duncan, R-Tenn., asked Richards, noting that he had seen male witnesses subjected to much tougher questioning in congressional hearings.
Chaffetz said it was clear to him, from poring over Planned Parenthood’s finances, that the organization did not require federal subsidies and that in his view, taxpayer dollars were better spent elsewhere. He went on to criticize the organization for lavish travel expenses, parties featuring chocolate fountains and the hip-hop group Salt N’ Pepa, and sending grants overseas for women’s health.
“The question before us is does this organization, does Planned Parenthood really need federal subsidy? Does it need federal dollars?” he said. “What I don’t want to become numb to is wasting those taxpayer dollars.”
Richards denied that the organization had done anything wrong, noting repeatedly that it was often the only health care provider for low-income women in underserved areas.
“The latest smear campaign is based on efforts by our opponents to entrap our doctors and clinicians into breaking the law — and once again our opponents failed,” Richards said.