September 16, 2009 — The Kansas-based antiabortion-rights group Operation Rescue is nearly out of money after fundraising took a significant hit during the economic recession, Troy Newman, the group's president, said in a recent letter to supporters, the Kansas City Star reports. The letter is a plea to supporters for financial contributions in what Newman calls "the worst financial crisis we've ever faced." He added that the economic recession "has brought our financial support to nearly a halt." The summer of 2009 "has been brutal for Operation Rescue," Newman wrote in the letter, noting that the murder of Kansas abortion provider George Tiller threw "everybody in the pro-life movement for a loop" (Kansas City Star, 9/15). Newman wrote in the letter that the group is "now so broke (as the saying goes), we can't even pay attention." According to the AP/Yahoo! News, Scott Roeder, the man who faces charges for the murder, allegedly had ties to Operation Rescue (Hegeman, AP/Yahoo! News, 9/15).
Newman wrote in the letter that the group's financial "crisis couldn't have come at a worse time" because "in the next 30 days, we're planning to launch the most ambitious and most significant project in our entire history." Newman said that the project is "something that's going to devastate the abortion cartel. It could even help end abortion in America once and for all" (Kansas City Star, 9/15).
During an interview with the Associated Press after the letter was sent, Newman said that Operation Rescue currently has only four paid employees, compared with nine in 2008. He said that the group usually has a yearly budget of $600,000, but donations for 2009 so far have decreased by 30% to 40%. Although Newman earns $60,000 annually, he said he has not been paid in two months.
Although the AP/Yahoo! News reports that Tiller's murder has been "a public-relations nightmare" for Operation Rescue, Newman said that the decline in donations has no correlation with the murder. According to the AP/Yahoo! News, the Internal Revenue Service revoked Operation Rescue's tax-exempt status in 2006 for prohibited political activity during the 2004 election, which means financial contributions to the group are no longer tax deductible. Newman said that the IRS revocation did not affect donations and that the group's financial problems began in 2008.
Meanwhile, other groups related to the anitabortion-rights movement have not seen similar drops in donations, the AP/Google News reports. Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, said that the group's summer membership drive went "rather well" despite summer being a traditionally slow time. She added that "[m]ost of the people that give us money are pretty dedicated, educated on this issue and certainly don't feel anything we did had anything to do with Dr. Tiller's murder."
Similarly, Vicki Saporta, president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation, said that her group -- which advocates for abortion rights -- has seen tens of thousands of dollars in new contributions from people who were upset by Tiller's murder. She said that she is not surprised Operation Rescue is experiencing a financial backlash, adding that the group has "publicly denounced [Tiller's] murder, yet they move their headquarters to Wichita and spend years harassing and trying to put him out of business" (AP/Yahoo! News, 9/15).