The campaign to re-elect Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) has to “essentially” lie about her support for abortion and hide that she accepts contributions from Planned Parenthood in order to attract moderate voters, several campaign staffers were recorded as saying.
Talking to an undercover reporter from Project Veritas Action, McCaskill staffers said Planned Parenthood doesn’t donate to the senator directly, but only through intermediaries.
“What were you telling me last night about Planned Parenthood?” the reporter asked on one occasion.
“They don’t donate to Claire because they don’t want to ostracize pro-life Democrats in Missouri,” said Nicholas Starost, one of the staffers.
“But they still somehow get us money?” the reporter continued.
“They put it through, like, different organizations,” the staffer replied.
Grace Richardson, the campaign’s regional field director, explained that Planned Parenthood doesn’t use its own political action committees (PAC) to funnel money to Democrats such as McCaskill in Republican-leaning states.
“I think it’s, like, a tactic that’s to, like, make them not too far left, to try to get the moderate voters,” Richardson said.
“But we’re still going to support abortion, right?” the reporter asked her.
“Yes. Yeah, 100 percent. It’s more like them not, like … They go through other means to support and give the money. They just don’t directly give the money from their, like, PACs,” she said.
Another campaign staffer, Melissa Blake, acknowledged the issue in more straightforward terms.
“It’s like we have to lie to get elected,” the reporter told her.
“Essentially,” Blake said. “Essentially.”
Running in a Red State
McCaskill is running for a third term in a state that President Donald Trump carried by a near-19-point margin. Previous footage from Project Veritas Action showed her staffers saying she is hiding her support for a ban on semi-automatic rifles, her support for Trump’s impeachment, and her alignment with positions of former President Barack Obama, in order to attract voters who would be turned off by her views.
Her Republican opponent is Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley. The latest poll by Fox News, on Oct. 3, shows a tie.
The staffers didn’t seem clear on how exactly Planned Parenthood transfers funds to McCaskill’s campaign.
“They just funnel it through EMILY’s List?” the reporter asked.
“Probably. They go through, like, other means to get us that money,” Starost said.
EMILY’s List, a PAC that “supports pro-choice Democratic women,” according to its website, gave McCaskill over $630,000, making it her largest donor.
Donors to EMILY’s List aren’t public.
The reporter checked with Starost again the next day.
“I’m pretty sure they, like, donate through, like, different means of, like, whatever,” Starost said. “Like, dude, whether it’s through EMILY’s List or whether it’s through something else.”
“Nice. I love that stuff, man,” the reporter said.
“It’s [expletive] beautiful,” Starost said. “It’s great when it works for us and not against us. Let’s be honest.”
McCaskill has raised more than $30 million and spent nearly $27 million this election cycle, outspending her opponent more than five to one.
Planned Parenthood donated some $25,000 to her campaign this election cycle, according to OpenSecrets.org. The “Women’s Issues” industry at large, which is nearly uniform in its support of abortion rights and the Democratic Party, donated close to $2.7 million.
Blake acknowledged she believed McCaskill is more progressive than she lets on.
“I think she’s a lot more open-minded to, like, alternative routes to things, but she can’t be open about that,” she said.
McCaskill’s campaign didn’t respond to a request for a comment.
“I’ve been very upfront about all my positions,” she told KOLR in response to the first video, accusing the Veritas reporter of trying to make her say something that conflicts with her position.
Hawley, her opponent, used the Veritas videos to slam McCaskill’s campaign on Twitter.
“The contempt for Missouri voters on display here by @clairecmc and her entire team is nothing short of remarkable,” he said on Oct. 17.