2017 law to defund Planned Parenthood backfires

Planned Parenthood is a non-profit organization that provides reproductive health services. (Deposit Photo)
Planned Parenthood is a non-profit organization that provides reproductive health services. (Deposit Photo)

In 2017, Republican lawmakers sneaked a provision into the state budget designed to strip Planned Parenthood of funding meant to serve low income patients.

The law directed the Arizona Department of Health Services to apply for Title X grant dollars under the federal Public Health Safety Act. State health officials are required to argue that the state “is best suited to receive and distribute” those federal dollars to eligible agencies.

But when the Health Department was finally awarded Title X funding, the agency spent only a fraction of the grant.

DHS was given $906,000 to spend between September 2018 and March 2019.

Of that, they spent just $88,000, leaving $818,000 in unspent federal dollars that should have gone to services for low income patients.

Meanwhile, Arizona Family Health Partnership had no trouble spending its portion of federal dollars. The nonprofit group, which has received most, if not all, of the Title X funds allocated to Arizona since 1983, was awarded $2.72 million during the same seven-month period.

They spent every penny, according to Arizona Family Health Partnership CEO Brenda Thomas.

Arizonans made up about 1 percent of all Title X patients in 2017.

That’s 36,402 people, mostly women, who could otherwise not afford to seek medical care. Of those patients, more than 22,000 were uninsured.

Had Arizona Family Health Partnership received all the Title X grant money, it’s likely that the $818,000 DHS didn’t manage to distribute would have been spent on birth control and other family planning services for low-income Arizonans.

That includes Planned Parenthood, which received a portion of the $2.72 million the nonprofit was awarded in that seven-month period. The remaining dollars went to county health departments and other providers.

Had the state received the full portion of the Title X grant, no dollars would have been distributed to Planned Parenthood.

In 2017, President Trump overruled an Obama administration order that prohibited states from denying Title X funds to certain organizations, as long as they’re capable of providing family planning services.

Republican lawmakers, backed by Cathi Herrod and the Center for Arizona Policy, an influential anti-abortion lobbying group, seized Trump’s order as an opportunity to divert Title X funds away from Planned Parenthood.

In order to do that, the state needed to get its hands on the Title X grant, said Sen. J.D. Mesnard, then speaker of the House of Representatives.

“It’s been no secret that the Legislature, the Republicans here, are not fans of funding the No. 1 abortion provider in the country,” the Chandler Republican said in 2017. “We have, as much as we’ve been able to do, [tried] to divert funds to other health care providers that aren’t abortion providers… This is consistent with that philosophy.”

Herrod said at the time that it would be typical for a state agency to apply for the funding and dismissed the idea that Planned Parenthood relies on the funds.

“Planned Parenthood is not the only game in town, and taxpayers should not be forced to pay for abortions – even indirectly through paying other expenses at abortion clinics,” Herrod said in a 2017 statement. “Planned Parenthood of Arizona currently receives a fraction of Title X funding – losing it would hardly be crippling.”

Planned Parenthood Arizona receives about 18 to 20 percent of their annual revenue from Title X dollars, according to spokeswoman Tayler Tucker. But, Tucker said Planned Parenthood Arizona serves 53 percent of Title X eligible patients.

Both state and federal laws already preclude the use of tax dollars for elective abortions, and no Title X money can be used for abortions either.

Under the 2017 law, the state’s health services agency must distribute the grant money first to state or county-owned health care facilities, then to hospitals and federally qualified health centers, rural health clinics, and health care providers that offer required primary health services as listed in federal law.

DHS officials blamed the unspent federal dollars on location and timing.

The Health Department’s share of Title X dollars could only be spent in five rural counties: Mohave, Santa Cruz, Yuma, Apache and Cochise. None of those counties currently have Title X providers, the most obvious candidates for the grant money, said Sheila Sjolander, assistant director of prevention services for DHS.

Sjolander said the state would have had to help start local Title X programs in a short period of time in order to spend the remaining $818,000.

“Title X is a very structured highly regulated program,” Sjolander said. “It makes it really hard to start up a new service in a rural area in a very short period.”

Although there are no current Title X providers in those five counties, county health departments could have applied for the funds as long as they used them for their intended purpose.

None did, according to Sjolander.

Given the short timeframe in which to spend grant dollars, Sjolander said she understands why county health departments didn’t apply for the money.

“I probably wouldn’t have applied either,” Sjolander said.

She said the ability to apply and the capacity to implement the program are two different things.

The $88,000 the department did spend was for staff and development of the program during the seven-month time period, which was unusually short, Sjolander said.

Sjolander said the state is developing a plan to spend the remaining $818,000 on one-time purchases like supplies and training, but that has to be approved by the federal government, and Sjolander said the department is still waiting for that to happen.

Had Arizona Family Health Partnership been awarded the money granted to DHS, it’s likely that at least some patients in those five rural counties would have been served. Thomas said her nonprofit has worked in some of the five counties previously, but none on a consistent year-to-year partnership. Most of the nonprofit’s rural work has been in Mohave County, where it continues to allocate money.

Moving forward, Arizona Family Health Partnership will focus on providing services in counties with unmet needs, Thomas said.

For the next three years, the nonprofit will have plenty of funding to do just that.

Arizona Family Health Partnership was given 100 percent of Arizona’s recent Title X grant funding, while DHS received none. Thomas said the grant, which is $5.2 million per year, is not enough money to fund all the rural counties, but that the nonprofit is working to finalize contracts that would extend services in two counties.

Thomas said the competition for Title X funding has soured her nonprofit’s relationship with DHS. Thomas had previously had conversations about Title X funds with state health officials, and said she later felt duped into helping the state directly compete for grant dollars with her organization.

“It’s harder to be a good partner with people you know you have to compete with,” she said.

While the state’s recent applications for Title X funding have been a motivator for Thomas’ organization, the state’s involvement goes against the spirit of Title X funding as outlined by the federal government in the 1980s, Thomas said.

She said when multiple groups were receiving the grants in 1983, Arizona Family Health Partnership, which was called Arizona Family Planning Council then, was agreed upon by the groups to serve as an “outside government entity” that would distribute the funds.

“They made that decision so it (Title X dollars) couldn’t be politicized,” Thomas said.

As for DHS, Sjolander said state health officials will continue to apply for Title X funding according to state law.

If DHS is awarded funding in the future, officials expect they’ll be given longer than seven months to spend the grant money, enough time to avoid the issues that led to unspent dollars in 2018 and 2019, she added.

Sjolander would not speculate why the department was not granted any of the funds after their most recent application.

Reporter Ben Giles and Capitol Media Services contributed to this report.

GOP lawmaker proposes legislation to allow ‘dreamers’ in-state tuition

Photo by Zerbor
Photo by Zerbor

Parting ways with party members, a Prescott Republican wants to allow “dreamers” who attend Arizona colleges and universities to pay the same in-state tuition as any other resident.

Rep. Noel Campbell said he’s all in favor of the United States having secure borders. And he acknowledged that the children involved were brought here illegally by their parents.

But Campbell told Capitol Media Services the reality is that these children, many of whom have known no other home, are here to stay. More to the point, he said they already have been educated through high school at public expense.

Noel Campbell
Noel Campbell

So he figures that it makes no sense to now tell them they can’t finish their education and get trained to do jobs that Arizona needs. And he wants to take his case directly to voters who first approved the restriction in 2006.

Campbell conceded opposition to his HCR 2048 is likely to come from those within his own party.

It was the Republican-controlled Legislature that put the measure on the 2006 ballot. It spells out that any person who is not a U.S. citizen or legal resident or is “without lawful immigration status” is ineligible to be charged the same tuition at state colleges and universities available to residents.

All that, Campbell noted, was before the Obama administration created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2012. It allows those who were brought here as children to not only remain but also to work.

The most recent figures put the number of DACA recipients at close to 700,000 nationally, with about 30,000 in Arizona.

Campbell said they deserve different legal treatment than others not here legally.

“Their parents broke the law, of course,” he said, as compared to the children who had no choice.

Campbell thinks he can make the case to voters in November that the 2006 measure no longer makes sense. The more immediate problem is closer to home.

First, he needs to get House Speaker Rusty Bowers to agree to assign the measure to a committee rather than quashing it. The Mesa Republican said Tuesday he has not yet reviewed the measure and has made no decision.

And even if Bowers sends the bill to a committee, then there’s getting whoever chairs that panel — a Republican — to give it a hearing.

Then there’s lining up the votes.

Campbell said he’s convinced he has Democrat support. But that still leaves him short in a House and Senate where Republicans hold the majority.

The task now, Campbell said, is to convince fellow GOP lawmakers that it’s in their interest to support the plan.

“I told my caucus that we, as Republicans, need to be out front, be proactive, and let the Hispanic community know that we value them and we want them to become members of our party,” he said. “And I think it’s a winning argument.”

More to the point, Campbell said HCR 2048 makes practical sense.

“They’ve gone to school, we’ve educated them,” he said, noting that federal law requires states to provide a K-12 education to all residents regardless of legal status. “And we need to reap the benefits of their education.

The future of DACA is in doubt.

President Trump has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to allow him to discontinue it, based in part on his argument that if it could be established by executive order it can be similarly ended that way. A ruling on that bid is expected later this year.

But Campbell said the fact remains that the students are here and are likely not leaving, no matter what the high court decides.

“They’re going to be here and we’re not going to deport them,” Campbell said. “They’re good kids and they want to continue their education.”

In fact, Campbell structured HCR 2048 so it won’t matter if DACA goes away.

His measure spells out that the resident tuition would be available to anyone who was eligible for DACA on June 15, 2012, when it was established. That means having been younger than 31 on that date, came to the United States before turning 16, was not convicted of certain crimes and graduated from an Arizona high school.

DACA recipients actually were paying in-state tuition until 2018 when the Arizona Supreme Court concluded that, strictly speaking, they were “without lawful immigration status” despite the executive order.

After that ruling, the Board of Regents came up with a compromise of sorts: A special rate for Arizona high school grads who were not here legally: 150 percent of resident tuition.

Campbell, however, said that special rate really isn’t enough to help for students who graduated from Arizona high schools and, despite their legal status, otherwise meet the definition of Arizona residents.

The differences can be substantial.

For example, basic residential tuition for new students at the University of Arizona is $11,299 a year, not including various mandatory fees. The formula for DACA recipients — 150 percent of resident tuition — sets what they owe at $16,948.

Campbell acknowledged that’s still better than the $34,976 tuition for nonresident undergrads. But he sees no reason for even that 150 percent differential.

There are similar differences at Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University.

There are limits to the scope of what Campbell wants to do. Most notably, the DACA students would remain ineligible for any other state-sponsored scholarship or assistance.

“If they get in-state tuition, they have to borrow it from the bank or their families or whatever,” he said.

Campbell said he doesn’t want this issue to get caught up in the ongoing debate about border security. On that issue, he said he sides with the Trump administration.

“We have to determine who comes into this country,” Campbell said.

“We can’t just let our borders be open,” he continued. “That’s not a racist position.”

But that, said Campbell, is separate from the question of DACA recipients.

The Criminalization of Politics


American politics have become criminalized. A steady drum beat of words and deeds — from “lock her up” chants, to prosecutions of President Trump’s associates, to Trump pushing for Joe Biden’s indictment — has eroded the bright line between politics and the criminal law.

This is deeply troubling for several reasons.

First, criminalizing politics conflicts with the bedrock principle that the rule of law applies equally to all people. Entangling the passions of politics with the criminal law leads to treating people differently based on their political affiliation — instead of on their guilt or innocence. This is antithetical to even-handed justice.

The examples of this criminalization are endless. Republicans want to lock up Hillary Clinton for her email practices and prosecute Obama administration officials for investigating the Trump campaign. Democrats, meanwhile, want Michael Flynn in prison and Trump indicted in New York the day he leaves office. And so on.

In American politics the messenger matters more than the message, the actor matters more than the act. This is diametrically opposed to the basic premise of the rule of law — that all people must be treated equally and their specific alleged misdeeds are what matter.

William Cooper
William Cooper

Second, criminalizing politics accelerates a disturbing trend toward ever more political polarization. It ramps up the stakes from treating opponents like political rivals to treating them like personal enemies.

True, fierce domestic politics is nothing new. It is woven into the fabric of our democratic system. But ultimately we are one nation in a dangerous world. Our political disputes should not consume a disproportionate amount of our national bandwidth. Nor should they undercut our ability to respond to the many foreign threats we face. If looked at from a global perspective, Americans’ interests overlap far more than they diverge.

Put simply, Americans should focus our political energy on winning elections and setting policy, not sending officials we don’t like to jail.

Finally, criminalizing politics deters talented people from entering the political arena. The United States government already has a personnel problem. We shouldn’t further dissuade quality people from entering government because imperfections and ambiguities in their past might be shoehorned into politically motivated criminal accusations. The downside for winning office should be losing the next election, not getting indicted.

These concerns about the criminalization of politics must be looked at in context. It is true that entering the government should neither absolve someone from past crimes nor serve as a license to commit new ones. And one aspect of even-handed justice is to prosecute not just the weak and anonymous but also the powerful and well known.

Striking the right balance is hard. But there should be a strong presumption in favor of leaving politics – and its inherent passions and prejudices – at the courthouse door. Criminalizing politics doesn’t just poison our government and undermine our justice system. It imperils our nation as a whole.

William Cooper is a California-based attorney. 

Trump defends decision to pardon Arpaio

President Donald Trump speaks during a joint news conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Donald Trump speaks during a joint news conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

President Donald Trump on Monday defended his decision to pardon Joe Arpaio, calling the former Arizona sheriff a “patriot” who loves his country.

Asked about his controversial pardon during a joint press conference with the president of Finland on Monday, Trump insisted that “a lot of people” believe he made the right call. He said Arpaio had done a “great job for the people of Arizona” and argued that he’d been treated “unbelievable unfairly” by the Obama administration.

“He’s done a great job for the people of Arizona. He is very strong on borders, very strong on illegal immigration. He is loved in Arizona,” Trump said.

Trump’s decision drew criticism from both sides of the aisle, and renewed allegations that he has little respect for an independent judiciary.

Arpaio shot to national fame by aggressively targeting immigrants living in the U.S. illegally using tactics that Latino and immigrants’ rights advocates likened to racial profiling. He faced a possible jail sentence on a federal conviction stemming from his refusal to halt certain immigration patrols.

“Sheriff Joe is a patriot. Sheriff Joe loves our country. Sheriff Joe protected our borders and Sheriff Joe was very unfairly treated by the Obama administration, especially right before an election, an election that he would have won,” Trump said during the event on Monday. “So I stand by my pardon of Sheriff Joe and I think the people of Arizona who really know him best would agree with me.”

The White House’s Friday announcement came as Hurricane Harvey threatened to batter Texas with heavy winds and severe flooding and shortly after the administration outlined long-awaited details of Trump’s plan to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military. But Trump pushed back on the assumption the timing was intended to bury the news, claiming instead that he’d announced the pardon then because he knew people would be watching.

“In the middle of a hurricane, even though it was Friday evening, I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally,” he said.

Trump on Monday also continued to insist that Mexico will pay for his long-promised Southern border wall.

“One way or the other Mexico will pay for the wall,” Trump said, arguing that, while the project may initially be funded by United States taxpayers, “ultimately” Mexico will pay.

Trump recently threatened to force a federal government shutdown unless Congress provides funding for his wall, but said Monday that he hopes such had drastic measure is “not necessary.”

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University of Phoenix strikes $191 million deal to settle false advertising claims

Money stack. piles of cash

A Phoenix-based national university known for promoting its programs has agreed to pay a record $191 million to settle claims it used deceptive advertising to attract prospective students.

The deal with the Federal Trade Commission announced Tuesday requires the University of Phoenix to forgive $141 million in debt by former students who enrolled between Oct. 1, 2012 and Dec. 31, 2016, the period the federal agency says they were likely exposed to the school’s advertising campaigns where it claimed it had special arrangements with major national and international companies to create jobs for students. Those ads, the FTC says, also led students to believe that the school tailored its curriculum for those jobs.

The other $50 million will go to the FTC to process refund demands from students.

A spokesman for the university said there was no admission of wrongdoing.

“We continue to believe the university acted appropriately,” according to an official statement. But it said that settling the case will help “avoid any further distraction from serving students that could have resulted from protracted litigation.”

It also pointed out that the campaign occurred “under prior ownership and concluded before the FTC’s inquiry began.”

The FTC had its own take on the agreement.

“This is the largest settlement the commission has obtained in a case against a for-profit school,” said Andrew Smith, director of the agency’s Bureau of Consumer Protection in a prepared statement. “Students making important decisions about their education need the facts, not fantasy job opportunities that do not exist.”

Rohit Chopra
Rohit Chopra

Two commission members were less reserved in their words.

Rohit Chopra said the University of Phoenix “scammed its students by luring them in with false job placement promises.”

And Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter said students make decisions to devote limited time and income into pursuing educational goals, many with the hope of landing a better job.

“The deceptive claims set out in the commission’s complaint are particularly galling to me because they sold false hope – robbing consumers of their time and money for the prospect of a job that did not exist.”

The settlement approved by a 4-0 vote of the commission – one member recused herself – follows what has been a sharp decline in enrollment at the university which has multiple campuses across the nation and is a major operator of online degree programs. University officials confirm that current enrollment is less than 100,000, down from close to 470,000 a decade ago.

Rebecca Kelly Slaughter
Rebecca Kelly Slaughter

It also comes three years after shareholders of parent company Apollo Education Group approved the sale of the firm for $1.14 billion to private investors, a price that translated out to $10 a share. By contrast, it traded as high as $89 in 2009.

According to the FTC’s allegations, first filed in 2015, the school relied heavily on advertising to attract students, including specific ads targeting military and Hispanic consumers.

One TV ad said the university was “working with a growing list of almost 2,000 corporate partners,” specifically citing Microsoft, American Red Cross and Adobe “to create options for you.”

“Not only that, we’re using what we learn from these partners to shape our curriculum so when you find the job you want you’ll be a perfect fit,” the commercial says.

“In reality, these companies did not partner with University of Phoenix to provide special opportunities for UOP students or develop curriculum,” the FTC complain says. Instead, the federal agency says, the university “selected these companies for their advertisements as part of a marketing strategy to drive prospective student interest.”

According to the FTC, the settlement will not affect the obligations of students who borrowed from the federal government or private lenders. These students, however, are eligible to apply to the U.S. Department of Education for income-driven repayment plans and, in some cases, loan forgiveness.

But Slaughter, in her own statement, had some sharp words for that agency.

“We watch what appears to be a complete abdication by the Department of Education, which has oversight of for-profit institutions and controls their access to federal financial aid,” she said.

That remark comes five months after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rescinded a rule, imposed during the Obama administration, which sought to hold private colleges and career education program accountable by forcing them to prove that graduates were able to repay the money they borrowed. That “gainful employment regulation” required schools to disclose debt and earnings data to prospective and current students.

Slaughter said the Trump administration is engaged in “what appears to be its systemic betrayal of consumers.”

Chopra, in his own comments, said the FTC found evidence that a “senior manager” at the University of Phoenix “sounded the alarm that this marketing was misleading,” a complaint he said the company’s top executives ignored.