The Sen. Stephen Rees fight is getting ugly, with Republicans now charging that attacks against Rees' ethics really result from an ideological clash between those who support education programs of sexual abstinence by teenagers and those who want abstinence taught in conjunction with contraceptive information.
Rees, R-West Valley, is a director and chief fund-raiser for a firm that tests and recommends sexual abstinence programs to school districts. Rees doesn't believe contraceptive education works - that studies by his firm show sexual abstinence education is the only effective way to prevent teenage pregnancies."This is an ideological fight," claims Rees, "not really about my actions. Planned Parenthood doesn't want sexual abstinence programs in the schools; they want contraception programs."
Rees questions what he says are close ties between State Democratic Chairman Peter Billings Jr. - who has called for a Rees' ethics investigation - and members of the Planned Parenthood board of directors and staff members.
For example, Ian Cumming, a well-known Democrat, contributed to Billings' chairmanship race in 1989. Cumming's wife is on the Planned Parenthood board.
But Billings and Planned Parenthood officials say they've never discussed Rees or this problems. "He's trying to change the issue," said Billings. "This isn't a question of which sexual education program should be in the schools. Nothing to do with that. It's a question whether Rees used his Senate position to hawk his programs to districts and raised funds from people who had issues before the Legislature and that that fund raising pays his salary."
Billings says Cumming did give him "a substantial" donation to his chairmanship race, an amount he doesn't recall exactly. "I've never talked to Ian about Rees or any sexual abstinence program," Billings said.
Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Mary Carlson is a friend of Billings, but both say they've never discussed Rees or the sexual abstinence program. Karrie Galloway, executive director of Planned Parenthood, says there is no ideological battle with Rees.
"We believe sexual abstinence is the best way to prevent teenage pregnancies. We support sexual abstinence programs."