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Pennsylvania Audits Anti-Choice Nonprofit Over Use of Taxpayer Money (Updated)

Nicole Knight

Pennsylvania shifts money from the state General Fund and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to anti-choice outfits, including Real Alternatives, which then passes the money onto fake clinics and the like.

UPDATE, March 27, 9:29 a.m.: Pennsylvania officials announced this week that they will not try to collect taxpayer funds that were improperly given to the anti-choice organization, Real Alternatives, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

Pennsylvania, which awarded a $30 million contract to Real Alternatives to support a network of “abortion alternative” programs, is now auditing the anti-choice nonprofit over questions of how it’s spending taxpayer dollars.

“We’re following the money,” Auditor General Eugene DePasquale told reporters in a conference call on Monday, announcing his office would investigate whether Real Alternatives is following state laws and spending tax money appropriately. The investigation results are expected this spring.

A religiously run nonprofit, Real Alternatives has a five-year contract with the state to oversee a network of 29 so-called abortion-alternative programs at 93 sites across Pennsylvania. The facilities include fake clinics, also known as crisis pregnancy centers, that peddle misinformation about abortion care.

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The money for Real Alternatives’ contract comes from the state General Fund and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), a federally funded program meant to aid the most vulnerable households with children. However, Pennsylvania, like neighboring Ohio, shifts this money to anti-choice outfits, including Real Alternatives, which then passes the money onto fake clinics and the like.

The latest audit comes on the heels of another state audit that criticized Real Alternatives for “inappropriately billing” nearly $500,000. That audit, by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, discovered that Real Alternatives was essentially shaving 3 percent off of money the state paid it to reimburse service providers.

Reports suggest that Real Alternatives spent the nearly $500,000 on travel and programs outside Pennsylvania, although the money is meant for state programs.

Representatives from Real Alternatives did not respond to a call asking for comment.

DePasquale said Real Alternatives “has been reluctant” to say how it’s using the taxpayer money. His office wants to know.

“The question is we just don’t know what’s happening to it,” DePasquale said Monday. “It could be anything from … spend[ing] it appropriately, to buying tickets to a Rolling Stones concert in London.”

In a written response to the state Department of Human Services (DHS), which issued the contract, Real Alternatives declined to furnish records to DHS, reportedly saying that DHS lacks the proper authority.

DHS issued the contract with Real Alternatives.

DePasquale said his office will use its subpoena authority, which DHS lacks, to investigate whether Real Alternatives is misusing taxpayer money.

States with Republican-majority legislatures and governors continue to funnel tax dollars to Real Alternatives despite its questionable record.

The anti-choice nonprofit reportedly “failed to see a single client” in the first eight months of a similar contract with the state of Michigan. Even so, the state gave Real Alternatives a more generous contract the following year, 2014-15, of $800,000.

State spending on outfits like Real Alternatives is often tied to an anti-choice agenda, as in the case of Indiana, where staunchly anti-choice Gov. Mike Pence (R) is now Donald Trump’s vice presidential pick.

Pence funded a $1 million pilot program with Real Alternatives in 2014. Then, hailing the pilot as a “widespread success,” agreed to expand it to include the entire state to the tune of $3.5 million.

Rewire analysis showed that only 18.5 percent of its spending went to goods, like clothing and food. The balance paid for anti-choice training for fake clinic staff and counseling.

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