See more of our coverage on the misleading Center for Medical Progress video here.
This post has been updated.
Monica McLemore has a recollection of an odd encounter at a conference in Baltimore, Maryland earlier this year.
The experienced clinician-scientist at the University of California, San Francisco, was waiting for a colleague at the hotel bar, when a young man she describes as “very nice, gracious and charismatic,” who nonetheless “seemed out of place,” approached her.
“He insisted on buying me a glass of wine and encouraged me to speak freely about basic science work,” McLemore recalled in an email to Rewire. He told her he was a graduate student, and spoke to her about his particular interest in experiments involving mice. He asked whether she was responsible for tissue collection but quickly lost interest in McLemore when he found out her lab followed strict protocols.
The young man is now widely believed to have been David Daleiden, whose dishonestly edited surreptitious video of a senior Planned Parenthood official last week sparked multiple state and federal investigations into the group’s alleged sale of fetal tissue, even though the transcript of the entire conversation makes abundantly clear that Planned Parenthood does no such thing.
In the days since that misleading video was released, Daleiden and his surrogates have sent ricochets of alarm throughout the abortion provider community with their claims that there are more such videos to come.
Of particular concern is the apparent revelation that Daleiden and his associates managed to infiltrate deep into the abortion care world, even attending conferences that require at least two letters of recommendation before any attendee can register.
Two such conferences were held by the National Abortion Federation (NAF), the national association for abortion providers in America.
Attendees from two conferences have told Rewire that they recall being approached by a man who resembles Daleiden, representing what appears to be just one of his bogus entities, a California company called Biomax Procurement Services.
Biomax exhibited at both the 2014 NAF conference held in San Francisco and this year’s conference in Baltimore, according to attendees. NAF did not reply to Rewire‘s emails seeking comment for this story.
“Biomax had a booth that was right across from me,” recalls Heather Ault, a pro-choice artist and activist, describing the exhibition hall at the 2014 conference. “They were very quiet, sitting in the corner. They didn’t have hardly anyone coming by their booth. They kind of looked like these wallflowers, and on their banner was a huge logo with a green bubbling beaker on it in a huge font.”
Ault is one of five attendees who have told Rewire of their discomfort at learning that Daleiden and his groups infiltrated what had until now been seen as a secure space. Security is a high priority for abortion providers and pro-choice advocates, who are subject to constant threats and harassment, and whose safety—and often lives—are at risk at the hands of anti-choice terrorists.
“It’s disturbing that people go to that extent to misrepresent and then secretly film people, it’s really disgusting,” says Ault. “It honestly makes me wonder how much of our work is infiltrated by anti choice people. It feels like a violation. It feels really scary.”
Part of Daleiden and his associates’ modus operandi seems to be getting people drunk in order to loosen up their lips, these accounts show. While his efforts to do with McLemore fell flat, he appears to have used that technique with devastating effect on Planned Parenthood’s Dr. Deborah Nucatola.
While the heavily mashed up video includes images of Nucatola sipping red wine from her glass, the full transcript of the lunch shows two operatives—one of whom is believed to be Daleiden—and his female associate urging Nucatola to drink from the very first line.
“So I have a dilemma to ask the doctor,” says the operative. “I really, after this week was looking forward to a glass of wine, maybe a bottle, to share of course. I have such a sinus headache though. I have Advil Sinus. Not over-the-counter, though. Can I mix them?”
What’s clear from a careful reading of the transcript is that by the end of the meeting, the operative remains sober—enough to permit himself some sly digs at the unsuspecting Nucatola—but as Nucatola’s answers get steadily longer, one has the distinct impression that she has been affected by the alcohol.
As she relaxes, Nucatola tells the operative and his associate that another local medical director could be willing to speak with them. “Is she in the area? Does she want to come and have a drink?” the operative asks.
At another point in the transcript, Nucatola and the operatives discuss the possibility of him presenting to Southern California abortion providers about his firm’s work in procuring tissue samples for scientific use. Their shared passion for the good that such research can do for humanity jumps off the pages—Nucatola’s is genuine, while the operative’s is feigned.
“Can we have a wine and cheese evening?” the operative suggests.
Daleiden’s apparent attempts to get his targets drunk do not always work. An abortion provider who asked to remain anonymous for this report due to security concerns recalled being approached by Daleiden at cocktail hours at the 2015 NAF meeting in Baltimore.
“They were over the top gross sales pitching, like ‘anything for a buck,’” the provider recalled in an email to Rewire.
“The man (that I can easily ID now that he is public) was professional-ish and knew a lot about how tissue was collected in the centers, the interworkings of staff involved,” she wrote. “A middle-aged blonde woman with a southern accent inserted herself (identified herself as his boss I think) and did a very hard and very crass sell, being very jokey about abortion and talking about $ in a ridiculous way. It was gross.”
Attempting to ply targets with alcohol is just one of the underhanded tactics used by Daleiden and his associates. The elaborate deception of the whole operation was geared towards entrapment and generating lies.
Biomax Procurement Services registered as a company in California in October 2013, records show. The listed address is a strip mall in Norwalk, a neighborhood between Los Angeles and Orange County.
But when they registered for the NAF conference, a woman named Brianna Allen used an address at a postal annex in Long Beach for Biomax. Rewire has been unable to reach Allen.
The man listed as Biomax’s registered agent resigned on July 7, but public documents give no indication of the reason for his resignation. He did not reply to our emails seeking comment for this story.
It wasn’t just NAF conferences that Biomax attended. Planned Parenthood Federation of American today confirmed that Biomax had set up sham exhibition booths at two Planned Parenthood conferences as well.
As well as creating bogus companies and nonprofit front groups, Daleiden and his operatives may have broken state laws that govern secret recordings of private conversations. It’s clear from the transcript of Nucatola’s conversation that it took place in California, a state that, like Maryland, makes it a crime to record a conversation without the consent of all parties to that conversation.
If Daleiden’s group did record any participants of the NAF conferences in San Francisco or Baltimore, they likely committed crimes in doing so. Nevertheless, the possibility of additional footage, which will be doctored to give whatever impression Daleiden and his operatives choose, is unnerving for many providers.
“How did they get vetted?” asked Rosemary Codding, policy director for Falls Church Healthcare Center, Virginia, speaking about the NAF conference. “It requires two bona fide letters. It requires quite a lot. That has got to be disturbing to all members. It’s always been a very secure place to go.”
Vicki Saporta, NAF’s president and CEO, said that while Biomax had exhibits at both conferences, the company was not a sponsor. She also provided the following statement:
I can’t talk specifically about the security screening we do, for the safety and security of our members, but we do extensive screening before anybody is allowed to attend our meeting in any capacity. Biomax went to great lengths to be part of our community. They attended the conferences of any number of organizations, tried to befriend people, take them out to meals, in order to obtain these secret videos. It was a three year concerted effort and they formed a company that, if you checked into, you would see had the proper formings of a company. They even tricked the IRS. These are people who have appear to have broken the law in order to achieve their own political ends and agenda.