California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who recently charged two pro-life activists with 15 felony counts for their work exposing Planned Parenthood’s sale of aborted baby body parts, received thousands in donations from the abortion provider, according to the numbers provided by Open Secrets.
On Tuesday, Becerra charged David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt of the Center for Medical Progress with 15 felony counts for the role they played in an undercover investigation of Planned Parenthood’s “fetal tissue” trade practices. In 2015, CMP began to release videos of the footage they obtained in their undercover operation, some of which featured Planned Parenthood officials and former employees discussing the taxpayer-funded organization’s disturbing and potentially illegal practices regarding the selling of the body parts of aborted babies. Though the state of Texas pursued charges against the activists, the charges were eventually dismissed.
Now, Becerra has raised the stakes, throwing 15 felony counts at the pro-life journalists, claiming they violated California law by recording “private” conversations without the consent of both parties (more on that below). But as it turns out, Becerra has a conflict of interest. Over the years, he has received a total of $5,535 dollars in campaign contributions from the organization at the center of the case.
The targeting of Daleiden follows a pattern established by Democratic Senator Kamala Harris, who as California attorney general in 2016, collaborated with Planned Parenthood on legislation targeting Daleiden and ordered a raid on his apartment — seizing his phone, laptop, and hard drives, which included “some very damning footage that has yet to be released to the public,” according to Daleiden.
The day that Becerra announced the 15 felony charges, Daleiden’s Center for Medical Progress released yet another video containing disturbing statements from a former Planned Parenthood official about how the organization handles aborted babies who were born alive.
As for Becerra’s charges, Daily Wire editor-in-chief Ben Shapiro argues that the AG’s foundational legal premise is flawed:
California is a two-party consent state when it comes to taping private conversations. But those conversations have to be private. Fourteen of the 15 charges filed came under California Penal Code Section 632(a), which states in relevant part, “Every person who, intentionally and without the consent of all parties to a confidential communication, by means of any electronic amplifying or recording device, eavesdrops upon or records the confidential communication … shall be punished by a fine not exceeding two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500), or imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year, or in the state prison, or by both that fine and imprisonment.” Note the language: confidential. These were not confidential communications.
First off, conversations in a public restaurant are clearly not confidential. And the Ninth Circuit found in 2002 that tapes made in private areas between a company and undercover journalists who are “strangers” to that company are not illegal – they ruled that a very similar undercover investigation by ABC News against Medical Laboratory Management Consultants for Primetime Live was just fine: “Devaraj’s willingness to invite these strangers into the administrative offices for a meeting and then on a tour of the premises indicates that Devaraj did not have an objectively reasonable expectation of solitude or seclusion in the parts of Medical Lab that he showed the ABC representatives.”
Furthermore, the court found no reasonable expectation of privacy regarding the conversations between the ABC undercover reporters and medical technicians: “Devaraj did not reveal any information about his personal life or affairs, but only generally discussed Medical Lab’s business operations, the pap smear testing industry, and Gordon’s supposed plans to open her own laboratory.” In fact, the Ninth Circuit explicitly distinguished Arizona law from California law and then said that even under California law, there would be no reasonable expectation of privacy: “The expectation of limited privacy in a communication – namely the expectation that a communication shared with, or possibly overheard by, a limited group of persons will nonetheless remain relatively private and secluded from the public at large – is reasonable only to the extent that the communication conveys information private and personal to the declarant.” This is precisely the same logic that would apply here.