• Tue. Aug 9th, 2022

Anti-abortion extremist slips on Governor Youngkin’s commission to combat anti-Semitism

ByChad J. Johnson

Jul 16, 2022


By Josh Stanfield of Enable Virginia

Over the past two months, several citizens have come to me asking questions about Governor Youngkin’s Commission to Combat Anti-Semitism: when does this Commission meet, what does it plan to do, and where can we find the orders of the day and the minutes of the meetings?

About a week ago, I sent Governor Youngkin’s office a FOIA request for the minutes of the last meeting of this commission, established by Governor Executive Order Number Eight.

I received these June 21 minutes and discovered what was a new name to me but apparently a known – and very controversial – political quantity in Virginia: March Bell.

The addition of March Bell to the Commission

On page four of the minutes, Virginia Secretary of Public and Homeland Safety Bob Mosier states:

“We are committed, from a law enforcement perspective, to monitoring and promoting the safety of vulnerable people. We have hired a senior advisor, March Bell, to work with us on these issues.

Mr. Bell then said, “I look forward to working on these issues and hope that my experience in civil rights can help in the work of the commissions.

It is unclear whether Bell’s addition to the Commission was the result of a vote or some other democratic process.

But who exactly is March Bell?

Selling “baby body parts”

Mr. Bell mentions his experience in the field of civil rights; indeed, according to Nisa Khan Report 2018 in ProPublica:

“Now Bell, a former Justice Department lawyer, is a senior adviser and chief of staff in the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights. He started in the Trump administration in March 2017 and assumed the title of additional adviser in April 2018. Exact details of Bell’s new position have not been made public.

It’s not Bell’s service in the Trump administration that makes him an odd and potentially controversial addition to this commission. As Nisa Khan notes:

“In 2015, March Bell was Republican staff director and chief counsel for a House panel that investigated Planned Parenthood. The mission: to find out if Planned Parenthood, a system of more than 600 reproductive care clinics across the country, benefits from donated fetal tissue. The investigation was launched by secret videos of anti-abortion activists that were heavily doctored and edited.

After 15 months of investigation and $1.6 million in taxpayer dollars, the Infants Lives Select Committee of Inquiry found no evidence of wrongdoing, but nonetheless recommended that the National Institutes of Health stop funding Planned Parenthood. Later, a Texas grand jury cleared the nonprofit for misconduct after the state tried to defund it. Texas prosecutors, however, charged two of the anti-abortion activists who shot the undercover videos.

As Miranda Blue points out in her report 2017 in Right wing surveillance:

“Speaking at a panel titled ‘Making the Case for Prosecuting Fetal Body Parts Traffickers,’ the House panel’s chief counsel, former Justice Department attorney March Bell, made it clear that while his committee was ostensibly convened to investigate fetal tissue procurement practices—and delved into this area—one of his ultimate goals was to find ways to undermine Planned Parenthood.

And Christine Grimaldi reported in 2018 that congressional Democrats sent a letter to then-HHS Secretary Alex Azar questioning Bell’s “conduct, judgment, and ability to maintain professional standards of impartiality and fairness.”

Democrats cited a Right Wing Watch report documenting Bell’s remarks at the 2017 Law of Life Summit, an annual event affiliated with the March for Life. Bell touted anti-choice ties to David Daleiden, the since-indicted CMP leader; Troy Newman, the leader of the radical anti-choice operation Operation Rescue; and Mark Crutcher of Life Dynamics, the group behind bogus legal threats to get teens to give up their abortion rights.

Those references as a crusader against Planned Parenthood don’t seem particularly relevant to a Commission to Combat Antisemitism, and make Bell a puzzling addition to the body.

Governor George Allen, “Political Chicanery” and Bell’s Resignation

March Bell apparently has a rather sordid history in Virginia if “March Bell” is “T. March Bell.” As the bio of the site for T. March Bell, president of the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, says:

“March Bell is the president of the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics. March has extensive experience in executive management and public policy, as well as legal expertise. He was general counsel in a federal agency, deputy director of a Virginia state agencyvice president of the International Justice Mission, and chief counsel and staff director of a congressional panel. [Emphasis mine].

The state agency in question appears to be the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), where Bell served as deputy director in Republican Gov. George Allen’s administration.

At least until Bell resigns in the scandal.

As Spencer Hsu explained in a 1997 Washington Post article:

‘DEQ deputy director T. March Bell was ousted on Monday, an agency official said, just hours after the legislative audit found Bell could not document the unusually high compensatory time payment. which he had endorsed in March to former agency spokesman Michael W. McKenna. McKenna was forced to resign from DEQ for penning a memo proposing a campaign of media leaks and lawsuits to try to discredit the agency’s critics.

In a veritable blast from the past, delegate Ken Plum said at the time in the Job:

“March Bell’s resignation brings out one of the agency’s greatest political operatives…Now that he’s no longer an influencer, I think you’ll see her focus on her environmental mission.”

If you’re really into 1990s political intrigue, check out Laura LaFay’s 1997 Roanoke Times article which details the scandals at the DEQ.

My hometown newspaper, The daily pressmaybe put it better in 1997:

“The mistake that led to Bell’s departure was caused by the same arrogance that defines the administration’s approach to the environment. They think the law doesn’t apply to them – whether it’s ignoring a legal requirement to document overtime or as important as refusing to enforce environmental regulations.

DEQ officials should forego political chicanery and devote their time and energy to obeying and enforcing federal and state environmental laws.

March Bell’s Future at the Commission to Combat Anti-Semitism

Given what we now know of March Bell, his appointment (if that’s even the right word) to this particular commission becomes even more puzzling: what in his professional background suggests expertise in fight against anti-Semitism?

From the DEQ to anti-abortion crusades to Trump’s Office of Civil Rights at HHS, Bell’s career trajectory suggests not a subject matter expert, a technocrat or a pragmatic consensus builder – but rather a hyperpartisan activist. of right.

It is then a pressing risk that Bell will inject partisan fervor behind the scenes of a commission intended to deal with one of our Commonwealth’s most serious problems, particularly at a time defined by the rise of racist organizing. , fascist and explicitly Nazi. terror.

In the “Adjournment” section of the minutes of the June 21 Commission meeting, Chairman Jeffrey Rosen concludes, “The first two meetings consisted of laying the groundwork for the commission with little public or media attention. . When we meet again as a committee as a whole, I think it would be good to have it in an interesting place and to invite the public and the media to seek more attention. »

I hope that after what we found in a single meeting minutes, journalists and citizens will hear President Rosen’s call: pay attention to the Commission for the fight against anti-Semitism.