from – The Daily Signal – by Kelsey Harkness
Republicans on a special House panel are recommending that StemExpress and its CEO be held in contempt of Congress for refusing to hand over accounting records. The company came under scrutiny after last year’s undercover videos of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s top abortion provider.
Republicans on the panel, which is investigating the market for tissue from aborted babies, see the accounting records as crucial for the investigation.
“To date, the panel has never received a single accounting record from StemExpress,” Republicans on the Select Investigative Panel said in a new staff report. “No names of key personnel have been provided by [StemExpress CEO] Ms. Dyer so that the panel might conduct interviews, and the cost estimates have been ambiguous and inadequate.”
StemExpress is a for-profit biotechnology company that procures tissue from abortion clinics such as Planned Parenthood. StemExpress then transfers that tissue to medical researchers.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn, chairman of the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, will hold a procedural vote on Wednesday to hold the biotechnology company in contempt of Congress. Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee, is aiming to force StemExpress and its CEO Catherine Dyer to comply with congressional subpoenas by using the force of the U.S. Justice Department in order to make the company release its full accounting records.
Before the Justice Department would take action against StemExpress, several more steps would need to occur after Wednesday’s vote. The House Energy and Commerce Committee will also need to hold a procedural vote before it can advance to the full U.S. House of Representatives. It is unclear when Republicans would schedule those votes with the House planning to recess at the end of September or earlier.
The Daily Signal reached out to StemExpress, which claimed it has already complied with congressional records requests.
“StemExpress offered to testify before the select panel, but this offer was ignored,” a spokesman for the company said. “Several House and Senate committees have reviewed our accounting records and closed their investigations. We have provided hundreds of documents to the select panel, including accounting records, both voluntarily and in response to subpoenas. All Americans should be concerned that a congressional panel can use the threat of contempt proceedings to support a narrative that flies in the face of the facts.”
Republicans claim that StemExpress has failed to provide investigators complete copies of accounting records in an attempt to slow walk or stonewall their efforts.
Instead, as they outlined in their latest staff report, StemExpress has provided investigators summary documents of the company’s financial records that “fell far short of actual accounting documents.” Throughout the investigation, StemExpress has maintained that releasing documents with personal information could put individuals at risk.
Questions about whether middleman companies such as StemExpress profit off the sale of fetal tissue were raised in a series of undercover videos produced by the pro-life group Center for Medical Progress. The videos featured employees at StemExpress and Planned Parenthood discussing the sale of fetal tissue. Both companies have denied illegal activity, and Planned Parenthood has since stopped taking reimbursements for fetal tissue donations.
Accounting documents, Republicans say, are needed to determine whether StemExpress profited from the sale of fetal tissue, which the 1993 National Institutes of Health Revitalization Actprohibits. However, it is legal to provide and accept payment to cover reasonable costs for “transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue.”
The panel’s ranking member Rep. Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat from Illinois, blasted Blackburn and the select panel for attempting to hold StemExpress in criminal contempt of Congress.
“Chair Blackburn has manufactured a controversy over information that she does not need,” Schakowsky said in a press release. “Her threat to punish a small biotechnology company and its owner is particularly outrageous given the company’s compliance with her unilateral subpoena demands. The McCarthyesque threat that StemExpress ‘name names’ of all employees or face congressional contempt is disgraceful.”
Republicans sent StemExpress multiple document requests—including subpoenas—since the panel was established on Oct. 7, 2015. On Sept. 8, 2016, Blackburn “provided one last offer to Stem Express and Ms. Dyer to comply with the subpoenas.”
“Having exhausted its efforts to obtain compliance from the subpoena recipients,” the majority’sstaff report reads, “Chairman Blackburn recommends that StemExpress, LLC, and Catherine Spears Dyer be held in contempt for their willful failure to fully comply with the panel’s subpoenas issued to them.”