Claude Allen in the House
Career wise, Claude Allen has come a long way from honing his political chops as the first African American aide to Jesse Helms, North Carolina's long-time rabid right wing Senator. But he hasn't moved very far from the politics or ideology of his former boss. Although Allen's nomination last year to a position on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals was derailed by filibustering Senate Democrats, he has weathered that storm. Now, after nearly four years serving as Tommy Thompson's Deputy Secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services, Allen has been promoted to the post of President Bush's chief domestic policy advisor.
In a recent piece for the LA Weekly, veteran journalist Doug Ireland described Allen as "a notorious homophobe, a ferocious enemy of abortion and an opponent of safe-sex education who for years has been one of the AIDS community's principal enemies." Allen is also an outspoken opponent of abortion, even in cases of rape or incest, and a champion of abstinence-only sex education programs.
During Senator Helms' 1984 re-election campaign, Allen charged Helms' opponent, Jim Hunt, with having ties to "queers," a "remark that has stuck to him throughout his career," the Associated Press recently pointed out.
"Allen has said the most difficult day of his professional life was in 1983 when Helms was blocking a federal holiday in honor of Martin Luther King Jr," the AP reported.
While Allen has been criticized by numerous civil rights and liberties organizations such as People for the American Way, the NAACP, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Alliance for Justice, and NARAL Pro-Choice America, his appointment is a coup for the religious right and is being given a solid two thumbs up by a number of key fundamentalist organizations.
Two Thumbs Up from the Right
"Focus on the Family is tremendously pleased with Claude Allen's appointment," said Peter Brandt, the Colorado Springs, Colorado-based-ministry's senior director of government and public policy. "Claude has a distinguished history as a champion for policies designed to build strong families and strong marriages, going back to his days in the state government of Virginia. He has been very strong as the number two man at HHS, and we believe Claude will serve the president well."
In a statement, Tony Perkins, the President of the Family Research Council, said: "Claude Allen is a strong advocate for family values and will undoubtedly provide the President trustworthy counsel on key domestic issues. Mr. Allen's appointment is a hopeful sign that President Bush is committed to a pro-family agenda for his second term. While we would have liked to have seen Mr. Allen confirmed as a federal judge, his new post within the White House suggests that the 'values voter' will have a strong voice within the administration on policy decisions affecting the family.
"Claude Allen has been a superb Under Secretary at HHS over the last four years. As HHS Under Secretary, he demonstrated his understanding of issues such as cloning, stem cell research and other bio-tech issues. Mr. Allen has also been an outspoken advocate of abstinence education. He understands that abstinence is the only appropriate and effective strategy to protect young people from sexually transmitted diseases."
At HHS, Allen "has been associated with marriage promotion and abstinence programs -- and even traveled to Africa to personally examine the issue of global AIDS," Focus on the Family's CitizenLink reported.
Allen "worked on health issues with former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore [and is known] as a staunch pro-life advocate who opposes abortion and strongly supports abstinence education," LifeNews.com recently reported. "In the Virginia position, he opposed using federal tax money to pay for abortions, even in cases of rape or incest."
Allen's former boss, Senator Helms, has also signaled his approval: "Claude is a bright, capable and honest young man whom I am proud of. I know he will do a superb job."
The Other Side of Claude Allen
Doug Ireland points out that Allen, "known as [Karl] Rove's enforcer... wielded a heavy, censorious and punitive hand" during his tenure under HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson. In November 2001, Allen was put "in charge of supervising HHS's audit of HIV-prevention spending," leading to a highly-publicized "witch-hunt that investigated all of the AIDS service organizations (ASOs) receiving any federal funding," including groups that had protested President Bush's "lethal do-nothingism about the AIDS pandemic." According to Ireland, "These audits were designed to intimidate ASOs into abandoning AIDS advocacy. A number of ASOs, like San Francisco's Stop AIDS Project and half a dozen other California AIDS-fighting groups, were ultimately purged from receiving U.S. funding by the Allen-led witch-hunt because Allen didn't like their science-based sex-education programs. Allen ordered Advocates for Youth, the leading national coalition for safe-sex ed, audited half a dozen times."
Being a "strong advocate for family values," led Allen to become "the driving force to replace science-based sex ed with the failed policy of teaching that only abstinence prevents AIDS," writes Ireland. "Allen helped bludgeon the Centers for Disease Control, which reports to HHS, into purging safe-sex materials from its Web sites and into adopting mandatory new rules requiring AIDS-fighting groups to teach that condoms don't work in preventing the spread of AIDS."
In addition, "When a federal judge found that a federally funded Louisiana abstinence program 'illegally handed out Bibles, staged anti-abortion prayer rallies outside women's clinics and had students perform Bible-based skits,' Allen refused to have the program audited, while continuing his repeated audit persecutions of effective AIDS-fighting groups teaching condom use," Ireland reports.
Allen's official biography, posted at the web site of the Dept. of Health and Human Services, neglects to mention the consequences of his radical advocacy. It does point out that Allen "led Governor Gilmore's initiative for Virginia's new Patients Bill of Rights passed in 1999, allowing patient appeals for adverse coverage decisions made by health plans, and direct access to physician specialists. Allen also spearheaded Virginia's welfare reform initiative and provided leadership to overhaul the state's mental health institutions and community services. Additionally, Allen was responsible for implementing the Governor's private health insurance program for children and families, offering lower-cost coverage options to thousands of uninsured Virginians.
"Before joining the Gilmore administration, Allen was Counsel to the Attorney General, and later, Deputy Attorney General for the Civil Litigation Division in the Office of the Attorney General, Virginia. He reported directly to then-Attorney General Gilmore on legal, legislative, and policy matters, including all health, education and welfare issues. Before joining the Office of the Attorney General, Allen practiced law in Washington, D.C., specializing in government contracts, litigation, and legislative affairs."
In a post-election letter to the president, Bob Jones III, the president of Bob Jones University, suggested that Bush "put" his "agenda on the front burner and let it boil." With Allen in place as the president's chief domestic policy advisor, and Jim Towey, the head of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, recently named an Assistant to the President, "a post," writes the FRC's Tony Perkins, "with direct access to the Oval Office," the religious right is ready to rock 'n roll.
Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His WorkingForChange.com column Conservative Watch documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the American Right.
Other Recent Articles by Bill Berkowitz