Over the past six years George W. Bush’s faith-based Administration and a conservative Republican Congress transformed the small-time abstinence-only business into a billion-dollar industry. These dangerously ineffective sexual health enterprises flourish not because they spread “family values” but because of generous helpings of the same pork-heavy gumbo Bush & Co. brought to war-blighted Iraq and Katrina-hammered New Orleans–a mix of back-scratching cronyism, hefty partisan campaign donations, high-dollar lobbyists, a revolving door for political appointees and a lack of concern for results.
One of the chief cooks is a media-shy 63-year-old Catholic multimillionaire, welfare privatizer and Republican donor named Raymond Ruddy. With close ties to the White House, federal health officials and Republican power brokers that date back to W.’s days as Texas governor, Ruddy has leveraged his generous wallet and insider muscle to push an ultraconservative social agenda, enrich a preferred network of abstinence-only and antiabortion groups, boost profits for his company and line the pockets of his cronies–all with taxpayer dollars.
Following the money swirling around Ruddy offers an eye-opening glimpse into the squalor at the heart of the abstinence-only project. One top Bush adviser left to take a job at Ruddy’s charity, Gerard Health Foundation, and a senior officer at Ruddy’s for-profit company, Maximus, left to take a top-level position at the Department of Health and Human Services. Leaders of Christian-right organizations that are Gerard grantees have gained advisory HHS positions–and their organizations have in turn received AIDS and abstinence grants to the tune of at least $25 million. Maximus itself has raked in more than $100 million in federal contracts during the Bush era.
As for Ruddy’s abstinence-only policy, recent reports, including one contracted by Bush’s HHS, show that after more than $1 billion has been poured into the enterprise, it simply doesn’t work. Already nine states have opted out from federal funds for this faith-based boondoggle in favor of more comprehensive and effective programs of sex education for their youth.
“I can’t think of another federal program where so much money was spent without any oversight and to such little effect,” said James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, a national organization that promotes comprehensive sexual health policies. “It wasn’t that policy-makers didn’t know that abstinence-only didn’t work. In 2000 the Institute of Medicine issued a scathing report on these programs. But they went full steam ahead despite the warning. It’s beyond naïve. It’s immoral.”
Raymond Ruddy sits on the board of Maximus, a giant government services provider in Reston, Virginia, that pioneered welfare privatization. As one securities analyst observed, “Maximus was in this segment before there was a segment.” In 1995 Maximus was a $50 million-a-year enterprise. With passage of the Welfare Reform Act the following year, Maximus’s earnings jumped to $105 million. Three years later its revenues tripled. Today it’s a $700 million publicly traded global giant with more than 5,000 employees deployed across the nation and in Canada, Israel, Argentina and Egypt. It contracts with state governments to handle child-support collections, implement welfare-to-work and oversee managed care. For the Feds, Maximus handles collections on student loans and Medicaid appeals, manages the Social Security Ticket to Work program for the disabled and provides biometric “smart card” technology to the Secret Service, the Treasury, the IRS.