FACT CHECK: Tweet Suggests Exponential Growth In Planned Parenthood Campaign Contributions From 2014 To 2018

Emily Larsen | Fact Check Reporter

Several people on Twitter shared figures on Planned Parenthood spending in the 2014, 2016 and 2018 election cycles that showed an exponential increase in campaign contributions to Democrats.

“Planned Parenthood contributions to pro-abortion Democrats:

2014 – $1,959,513

2016 – $4,085,106

2018 – $30,000,000,” anti-abortion advocacy group Live Action tweeted on Oct. 1.

Republican U.S. House candidate Tim Donnelly from California also tweeted the figures.

“In case you were wondering what election is the most important of your lifetime,” Donnelly said.

Several other laypeople on Twitter shared the numbers.

Verdict: False

Planned Parenthood can spend money on elections in two ways – contributions to candidates, parties and interest groups, or by targeting voters with what’s known as outside spending. The tweet erroneously compares contributions in 2014 and 2016 to outside spending in 2018.

Planned Parenthood is part of a $30 million voter initiative for the upcoming midterms, but the $30 million expense will be shared by three other progressive groups, not Planned Parenthood alone.

The figures for 2014 and 2016 also mistakenly include contributions made to a few Republicans.

Fact Check:

The tweet’s figures for 2014 and 2016 reference data from the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan organization that runs OpenSecrets.org, that show contributions of $200 or more from Planned Parenthood and its employees. The totals for 2014 and 2016 previously matched the figures in the tweet, a spokesperson confirmed, but have since been slightly updated to show $1,962,263 in contributions for 2014 and $4,083,698 for 2016.

Most of that money went to advocacy groups and to Planned Parenthood affiliates. In 2016, for example, $1 million went to Planned Parenthood North Carolina and $133,000 went to the political action committee (PAC) Priorities USA Action. Only 46 percent of the money cited in the 2014 figure and 27 percent of the money cited in the 2016 figure went to Democratic candidates, parties or leadership PACs.

The tweet mistakenly includes a handful of Republican contributions in its figures. Former Rep. Richard Hanna of New York received $2,823 in 2014. In 2016, former Rep. Bob Dold of Illinois received $5,000, another $5,000 went to former Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk and Rep. Dan Donovan of New York got $4,700.

So far in the 2018 cycle, Planned Parenthood has made $1.6 million in contributions. While most of the money has benefitted Democrats or progressive advocacy groups, Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have each received $1,000. Independent Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine have also received contributions.

So where did Live Action get the $30 million figure?

Planned Parenthood Votes, a super PAC, announced a $30 million initiative in April to engage 2.5 million voters in Florida, Michigan and Nevada during the 2018 midterms. The campaign, however, will only be partially funded by Planned Parenthood. Three other groups – the Center for Community Change Action, the Color of Change PAC and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) – will also invest in the initiative.

Super PACs like Planned Parenthood Votes are not allowed to directly contribute money to political candidates or coordinate spending with them, but they may spend money to advocate for or against candidates through direct mail, digital advertising, phone calls to voters and other methods.

This is known as outside spending, and Live Action incorrectly compares this type of spending to the contributions Planned Parenthood made in 2014 and 2016.

Planned Parenthood Votes spent $4.2 million in the 2014 cycle and $12.6 million in the 2016 cycle to target voters. In the 2018 cycle, it has so far spent $1.4 million on activities to support or oppose candidates. Its independent expenditures have been overwhelmingly in support of Democratic candidates or in opposition to Republican candidates, according to OpenSecrets.

Other Planned Parenthood affiliates also spend money on electoral advocacy. Altogether, Planned Parenthood outside spending totaled $6.1 million for the 2014 elections and $15 million for the 2016 elections. Outside spending for 2018 has reached $3.1 million so far.

Planned Parenthood plans to run a $20 million ground game in the 2018 cycle, more than it has spent in any previous midterm election.

Live Action deleted the tweet following an inquiry from The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“The numbers in the tweet are incorrect,” Live Action told TheDCNF in an email. “This was a draft tweet that we had decided not to use but that was inadvertently left on the post roster and mistakenly posted while our social media manager was out.”

Donnelly did not respond to a request for comment.

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Emily Larsen

Fact Check Reporter