For more than a month, households in California have been receiving robocalls and mailings about abortion. "In California, a 13-year-old girl can have a surgical abortion without either of her parents ever knowing about it," says the voice on the line, before asking recipients to sign a petition supporting a 2016 California ballot initiative that would require parental notification before a girl can terminate a pregnancy. The vaguely familiar voice making this pitch? Republican presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina.
Fiorina's robocalls began in late September, barely two weeks after her fiery rebuke of Planned Parenthood at the second GOP debate catapulted her to the top tier of candidates in polling. These calls—which promise to reach millions of households in California—were paid for by Californians for Parental Rights, a fundraising committee whose founder has spent millions unsuccessfully pushing parental notification ballot measures in almost every California general election for the past decade. Getting a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot requires a number of signatures equal to 8 percent of the number of voters in the state's last gubernatorial election. This year, CPR will need to gather 585,407 signatures to qualify the parental notification measure for the ballot.
For this latest attempt, Fiorina is a valuable advocate. The one-time Silicon Valley CEO has emerged as the right's new anti-abortion champion after ramping up her condemnations of Planned Parenthood on the national stage. At September's GOP debate, she forcefully described grisly abortion footage she claimed to have seen in Planned Parenthood sting videos released this summer. A few weeks later, she accused the women's health provider of spreading "propaganda" about her when the group insisted the video she described did not exist. Later in October, Fiorina retold the old story of her pro-life roots—accompanying a friend to an abortion procedure—but emphasizeda new detail: "We went to a Planned Parenthood clinic."
Now Fiorina is throwing her support behind a measure that has been the goal of California's pro-life community for a decade, one that appears to be as much about draining the funds of the pro-choice groups as it is about protecting young women. When contacted for comment, Fiorina's campaign didn't address the candidate's motivations for supporting this measure, saying only that "Carly is proudly pro life and was not compensated in any way."
In total, Planned Parenthood and smaller donors have spent more than $17 million to quash this ballot measure over the years. "That is a huge sum for us," says Kneer.
So far, the calls appear to have attracted more ire than support. Visitors to the Californians for Parental Rights' Facebook page have voiced their frustration: "STOP HARASSING ME," wrote one user. From another: "I'm sure I'm not alone in saying that unsolicited robocalls is [sic] not a smart way to get people to support your cause." Similar reactions have proliferated on Twitter: "Just got an irritating robocall from @CarlyFiorina," wrote one user. "Women are watching, and we vote! #prochoice."
Jim Holman, the founder of Californians for Parental Rights, pushed to get parental notification on the state ballot in 2005, 2006, 2008, and 2011, making this his fifth attempt at passing the constitutional amendment. This kind of repetition for a defeated measure is virtually unprecedented in California, says Brian Adams, a political science professor at San Diego State University who studies the ballot measure system.
"There have certainly been initiatives that have been on the ballot multiple times," says Adams. "But I'm not sure there's any other one that's been tried five times."
Holman has bankrolled a large portion of these repeated efforts himself, spending more than $5 million in loans and direct contributions on parental notification measures since 2005—far more than any other donor. A conservative Catholic, he owns the San Diego Reader, one of the largest alternative weeklies in the country and publishes California Catholic Daily, a religious news site that sometimes runs anti-abortion and anti-gay content. The Vietnam vet and father of seven says in media interviews that he has been vehemently anti-abortion since 1989, when his newspaper ran ads featuring photos of aborted fetuses that were found in a storage container. That same year, Holman was arrested outside an abortion clinic in La Mesa, California during a demonstration by Operation Rescue, one of the more extreme anti-abortion groups, and spent two weeks in jail after being convicted of trespassing.
His legislative activism soon followed. In 1997, the California Supreme Court overturned a parental consent law on the grounds that girls under 18 had a right to privacy when deciding to have an abortion. That year, Holman donated thousands of dollars to mount a campaign against the justice who wrote the majority opinion, Ronald George, who was up for a retention vote as chief justice. When that failed, Holman turned to ballot measures.
The first effort, Proposition 73, made it onto the ballot for a 2005 special election. Planned Parenthood spent $2.3 million to defeat the initiative by about 5 points. Mere days after this loss, Holman launched a new petition to qualify parental notification for the 2006 election, where Planned Parenthood would spend $3.4 million to defeat it. In 2008, Planned Parenthood spent $6.5 million to defeat the latest version of the measure. In 2010 and 2011, Californians for Parental Rights filed two slightly different initiatives, five times each—10 attempts in total. None made it onto the ballot. In total, says Kathy Kneer, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, Planned Parenthood and smaller donors have spent more than $17 million to quash this ballot measure over the years. "That is a huge sum for us," says Kneer.
The majority of Holman and CPR's funds and efforts have been spent on getting the measures to qualify for the ballot initially, rather than aggressive media campaigning once they are in play. That's why some opponents believe Holman and his fellow abortion opponents are motivated not just by the content of the measure, but by its financial consequences for Planned Parenthood. (Holman could not be reached for comment.)
"If you are a multi-millionaire who's spending $1.5 million in three consecutive general elections to qualify the initiative for the ballot, but then you don't spend any of your millions on television commercials to attempt to actually pass that initiative, it definitely raises a red flag," Vince Hall, vice president of Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, told San Diego CityBeat in 2011.
San Diego State's Adams agrees that this theory is a real possibility: Presidential election voter turnout in California tends to skew liberal, he says, which means that even if the parental notification measure makes it onto the November 2016 ballot, it is not likely to win. "It makes sense that they're doing it to drain funds from their opponents," he says.
If the measure gets on the ballot, it would once again require Planned Parenthood to expend money and energy, says Kneer, and would boost Fiorina's anti-abortion bona fides. What's more—Fiorina's support of the measure is a win-win for her and CPR. She can publicize her anti-abortion stance to Californians while evading campaign ad regulations, but she also brings clout to CPR's oft-failed ballot measure. "I think they were pleased as punch that they got her to do a robocall," says Kneer. "They may think they finally have a way to talk about this and leverage the presidential election. With Fiorina, I think they feel they have a little steam on their side."
After a week of speculation in Washington, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said for the first time on Tuesday that he would be willing to officially throw his hat in the ring for the position of House speaker, provided that all House Republicans support his candidacy.
The announcement comes less than two weeks after Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the House majority leader, withdrew his name from consideration for the post. McCarthy's exit came after a widely publicized gaffe, in which he admitted that the Benghazi committee was in part a smokescreen intended to damage Hillary Clinton's candidacy for president. Since then, Ryan has been the GOP favorite for the position. However, up until Tuesday he's insisted that he had no interest in the job.
To win the post, Ryan needs the approval of the House Freedom Caucus, the group of conservative House Republicans that helped force the resignation of John Boehner. Ryan met with the group on Tuesday. According to Politico reporter Jake Sherman, Ryan told the group that he wanted to know by the end of the week whether he would have the full caucus' support of his candidacy. He also suggested restructuring the position to be more about managing the party's message and less about fundraising.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) have also announced their candidacy for the speaker post, but Chaffetz said in a tweet on Tuesday that, should Ryan run, he'll drop out of the race and throw his support behind Ryan.
Boehner had planned to leave his post at the end of this month but has said he'll stay on in the job until his successor is named. Adding to the pressure to quickly name a new speaker: Congress must raise the debt ceiling by November 3 or risk a federal government default on the nation's debt.
Over the past 20 years, there's been a promising decline in arrests of youths in the United States. The reasons for the drop are elusive, but one factor might be a renewed interest within the juvenile justice system in paying better attention to child welfare before kids are drawn to crime. States are also seeking alternatives to traditional punishment once kids are in the system.
But a new report out this weekfinds that for young girls, the trend is going in the opposite direction. The proportion of girls in the juvenile justice system has increased at every stage of the process over the last 20 years, from arrests to detention and probation.
National Women's Law Center/ National Crittenton Foundation
The report's authors, Boston College law professor Francine Sherman and Annie Balck, a policy consultant at the National Juvenile Justice Network, attribute the gender gap to the juvenile justice system's long-standing "protective and paternalistic" approach to dealing with delinquent girls. The system tends to detain girls, the authors write, because they're seen as needing protection. It's a strategy that is ill-suited to the personal histories of trauma, physical violence, and poverty that lead many girls into bad behavior. Even when the system acknowledges these factors, there are limited options available beyond traditional arrests and detention.
This report highlights several disparities in the treatment of girls in the system. For instance, there's a gender gap in the detention of girls for low-level crimes: Nearly 40 percent of detained girls were brought in on status offenses (behavior that is only illegal when you're under 18), compared with just 25 percent of boys.
National Women's Law Center/ National Crittenton Foundation
Among girls in the system, there's also stark racial inequity. In 2013, African American girls, the fastest-growing segment of the juvenile justice population, were 20 percent more likely to be detained than white girls, while American Indian girls were 50 percent more likely.
The authors also argue that detention is uniquely harmful to youths, and can lead to catastrophic consequences for girls. One study cited in the report found that girls who had been detained were five times more likely to die by age 29 than children who had not. For Latina girls, that likelihood increased—they were nine times more likely to die by age 29 than the general population. Detention is a drastic and developmentally incorrect measure to take, the report's authors maintain, because in most cases the crimes girls commit are the result of past trauma that isn't being properly addressed. Few have been found delinquent for more serious offenses such as assault.
The report cites a 2014 study of traumatic experiences in justice-involved youth. In the study, 31 percent of girls reported a personal experience of sexual violence in the home, 41 percent reported being physically abused, and 84 percent reported experiencing family violence. Girls reported having been sexually abused at a rate 4.4 times higher than boys.
"Greater restriction is rarely the answer and cannot address the violence and deprivation underlying so many girl offenses," write the authors. To reverse the growing gender gap in juvenile justice, they say, "systems must craft reforms that directly address the root causes of their behavior and provide an alternate, non-justice-system path for girls' healthy development and healing."
Presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina at the GOP primary debate on September 16
During last week's Republican presidential debate, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina described the doctored Planned Parenthood sting videos that have spurred the ongoing effort by congressional Republicans to defund the women's health care provider. Her voice rising, she recounted a grisly scene: "I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain."
The audience erupted in applause. Fox News called it "the moment of the night." The only problem? None of what she described ever happened in the heavily edited videos. (Though this week, Fiorina's super-PAC created its own version of the previously nonexistent video.) She went on to make many more inaccurate assertions during the debate. But her delivery was confident and eloquent: Fiorina won, and in the last week she has surged in the polls. In a recent CNN poll, she's second in the GOP presidential field, inching up behind Donald Trump.
As it turns out, Fiorina's tendency to embellish—or altogether avoid—the facts goes back much farther than last week's debate. Below is a partial compilation of some of her less-than-truthful moments:
1. Claim: Fiorina was not fired from her job at Hewlett-Packard because of performance.
Facts: In February 2005, Fiorina was dismissed from her post as CEO of HP by a board of directors that she's since called "dysfunctional." At the time, she roundly told reporters that the firing was not about performance. She struck a similar note in her 2006 memoir, Tough Choices, writing that after more than five years leading HP, by December 2004 she had pulled the company toward success. She cited a strong fourth quarter, despite a third-quarter "stumble." In fact, the stumble was an enormous shortfall: HP missed its earnings projections that quarter by 23 percent. "When companies miss by a few pennies, it doesn't mean all that much," the New York Times wrote of Fiorina in 2006. "When companies miss by 23 percent, Wall Street starts wondering if the people at the top have a clue as to what's going on in the various businesses." The Times also pointed out at the time that although Fiorina wrote in her memoir that HP missed its numbers on her watch only three times, "in fact, the company fell short at least nine times on either revenue, profit or both."
2. Claim: The Securities and Exchange Commission investigated allegations of HP's violations of the Iran embargo and cleared HP management of any knowledge of the problem.
Facts: Last week, several news outlets reported that Fiorina was CEO of HP when the company allegedly sold products to Iran via a third-party company in Dubai, potentially in violation of US-Iran sanctions. When conservative radio host Sean Hannity questioned Fiorina about the allegations last Friday, she said, "The SEC did a thorough investigation and concluded that no one in management, myself included, knew anything about it."
In fact, there's no evidence that an SEC investigation of the allegations ever happened. The SEC did inquire about the company's Iran dealings in a 2009 letter, after Fiorina had left the company. But there's no evidence that a ruling clearing management of any knowledge was ever issued. What's more, in their response letter to the SEC, HP indicated that management was aware of the Dubai-based company Redington Gulf's sales of HP products to Iran, but that such sales were legal under US law.
3. Claim: Fiorina told Fox News host Chris Wallace last week that Redington Gulf was "not honest" with HP about selling HP products to Iran, a potential violation of US-Iran sanctions.
Facts: Redington Gulf was open about its sales of HP products to Iran. The company issued a press release in 2003 saying that its relationship with HP began in 1997 to focus on "one market—Iran."
4. Claim: Buying a semi-automatic weapon in the United States is illegal.
Facts: In 2010, Fiorina ran for the Senate in California against three-term incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer. During their first debate, the moderator asked Fiorina why she opposed reinstatement of the federal ban on assault weapons. She responded with several inaccurate points: "First of all, you know, assault weapons and semi-automatic weapons are not the same thing," Fiorina said. "It's a definitional issue. There are—but here's the important point: It's illegal today to be buying semi-automatic weapons."
In fact, it is very much legal to buy semi-automatic weapons in the United States. The AR-15, one of the most popular guns in America, is semi-automatic. Congress did ban the sale of fully automatic weapons (also known as machine guns) in 1986. Also, in contrast to Fiorina's claim, the vast majority of assault weapons—a term defined in the now-expired Federal Assault Weapons Ban—are semi-automatic, though gun rights advocates dislike the term. They argue that many typical sporting rifles are also semi-automatic, so "assault weapon" is a misleading, politicized term that should instead be used to describe fully automatic weapons.
5. Claim: Taxpayers can fund "virtually any" abortion.
Facts: During her 2010 Senate debate against California incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer, the moderator asked Fiorina about her views on abortion. "I understand that this is an emotional issue for many women," she responded. "I happen to be pro-life. Barbara Boxer holds a very extreme view: that taxpayers should pay for virtually any abortion, any time, anywhere, for any reason." In fact, the Hyde Amendment, which Boxer supported as a "good compromise," prohibits using federal dollars to fund most abortions, unless the pregnancy arises from rape, incest, or the abortion is needed to save the life of the mother.
6. Claim: Fiorina's second husband picked her out of "the secretarial pool."
Facts: During a town hall in New Hampshire over Labor Day weekend, Fiorina described meeting Frank Fiorina. "It was a long time ago in the technology world and there weren't that many people actually who took a young woman from the secretarial pool all that seriously. And he did—so I had to fall in love and marry him." But as the Washington Post points out, Fiorina was not a secretary when they met. She was working in government communications at AT&T. Her future husband was in a higher position and took interest in one of her ideas.
7. Claim: Thanks to Fiorina's leadership, HP became the world's first $100 billion IT company.
Facts: Fiorina's 2010 Senate campaign website trumpeted her achievements as HP's CEO, saying that she "positioned HP to become the first $100 billion information technology company." HP did become the first IT company to reach $100 billion in sales, but not until 2007—several years after Fiorina's departure and during the tenure of CEO Mark Hurd. Fiorina's presidential campaign says her leadership in the years leading up to this milestone—particularly the Compaq merger she orchestrated—was key to reaching the $100 billion mark. But the merger was widelydeemed a failure, rather than a financial boon for the company.
8. Claim: As president, Fiorina would not negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin
Facts: During her presidential run, Fiorina has repeatedly said that, as president, she would completely avoid negotiations with Putin. "Russia is a bad actor," Fiorina said during last week's primary debate. "Vladimir Putin is someone we should not talk to, because the only way he will stop is to sense strength and resolve on the other side, and we have all of that within our control." But before being so tough on Putin, Fiorina expressed being very impressed with his leadership in Russia. As the Daily Beast points out, Fiorina met Putin in 2001, at the APEC CEO summit in Beijing. Both of them were slotted to give speeches, and Fiorina—then CEO of HP—spoke immediately before Putin. She talked about how Putin had led Russia through a dramatic transition to democracy. "Hewlett-Packard has been at the center of a lot of change in our 62-year history. But President Putin was elected president in the first democratic transition in Russia in 1,000 years," Fiorina said. "Talk about giving new meaning to the word 'invent.'" The Fiorina campaign disagreed with this interpretation, telling the Daily Beast that this was merely "a fairly banal statement of fact."
Presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina at the GOP primary debate on September 16
During the latest GOP primary debate on September 16, Carly Fiorina described a video that shows "a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain." Many news reports have pointed out that no such video seems to exist—it's not among the heavily edited Center for Medical Progress videos released this summer, nor is it anywhere else.
On September 19, the super-PAC backing Fiorina's candidacy, Carly for America, posted a video to its YouTube page that appears to be a home-brewed version of the previously nonexistent video. The clip is called "Character of Our Nation," a quote from Fiorina's statements during the debate, when she said defunding Planned Parenthood "is about the character of our nation."*
In an email sent out yesterday, Planned Parenthood pointed out that the video appears to be a heavily edited selection of five separate audio and video clips, spliced together "to try to concoct the video that she claimed existed" during the debate. Several of the clips, Planned Parenthood said, come from the doctored Center for Medical Progress sting videos released this summer that purport to show Planned Parenthood officials selling fetal organs for profit—a criminal allegation that state after state has found to be false.
One of the clips comes from the Grantham Collection, an anti-abortion archive that has been discredited by pro-choice advocates, in part for making false allegations about the content of benign photos. For instance, the group claimed that a photo of basic medical tongs is an image of the tool used to pull apart the limbs of an aborted fetus.
Planned Parenthood wrote a letter to the Fiorina campaign yesterday, asking it to take down the composite video.
In response to a request for comment on the veracity of the video, Fiorina campaign spokeswomen Sarah Isgur Flores wrote in an email, "Carly is a cancer survivor and doesn't need to be lectured on women's health by anyone. Over their long and factually incorrect letter, Planned Parenthood doesn't and can't deny they butchering babies and selling their organs [sic]. This is about the character of our nation."
Correction: A previous version of this article misidentified the group that posted the video.