The panel, created by House Republicans last year after a series of undercover videos alleged criminal wrongdoing in the transfer of fetal tissue from abortion providers to researchers, has probed whether the company in question, California-based StemExpress, has illegally profited from those transfers.
Federal law prohibits the sale of fetal tissue for profit, but entities involved in the transfer of that tissue are allowed to recoup costs. StemExpress says it has followed the law: “We lose money doing this,” chief executive Cate Dyer told The Washington Post in May.
The panel subpoenaed StemExpress in February, seeking accounting and personnel records, and subsequently subpoenaed Dyer in March. Both the firm and Dyer could be held in contempt, according to documents released Monday by the panel’s Republican majority.
“To date, the Panel has never received a single accounting record from StemExpress, no names of key personnel have been provided by Ms. Dyer so that the Panel might conduct interviews, and the cost estimates have been ambiguous and inadequate,” reads a 20-page GOP staff report.
The committee is also set to vote on releasing a transcript of a deposition it conducted with an official at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. The panel had investigated links between that institution and an Albuquerque abortion provider.
Representatives for StemExpress and Dyer could not be immediately reached Monday. But the panel’s top Democrat criticized the Republican chairman, Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, for having “manufactured a controversy over information that she does not need.”
“Her threat to punish a small biotech company and its owner is particularly outrageous given the company’s compliance with her unilateral subpoena demands,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, who noted that StemExpress has produced roughly 1,700 pages of documents and offered to testify about its business practices. “The McCarthyesque threat that StemExpress ‘name names’ of all employees or face congressional contempt is disgraceful. We will fight this continued abuse of congressional authority every step of the way.”
Should the House find StemExpress or Dyer in contempt, it is unclear whether any sanctions would result. The GOP report anticipates referring the matter to the Justice Department, but prosecutors have not pursued charges against the two executive branch officials found in contempt during the Obama administration, Lerner and former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr.