Des Moines Register(Des Moines, IA) Why is the Des Moines Register so biased in favor of Planned Parenthood—even at the cost of their journalistic integrity?

The answer may lie in the names in big letters on the outside of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland (PPH) headquarters in Des Moines. Why does the Des Moines Register fight so hard for Planned Parenthood? Because it’s about family.

The Planned Parenthood of the Heartland headquarters facing Sixth Avenue, across from Mercy Hospital, are labeled: Elizabeth and David Kruidenier Center. On the opposite side of the building is: Elizabeth Bates Cowles Center. These names are all part of the same family tree and they all have ties to the Des Moines Register.

Gardner Cowles, Sr. and Florence Call Cowles

Let’s start at the beginning. The Des Moines Register was owned by the family of Gardner Cowles from 1903-1985. Gardner Cowles, Sr., was a wealthy media magnate who purchased the Register and was its publisher from 1903-30s.

Cowles also purchased the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, along with other newspapers, magazines and radio stations across the country. He and his wife, Florence Call Cowles, had six children: Russell, Helen, Bertha, Florence, John and Gardner Jr. also known as “Mike.”

Despite being deceased for many years, Gardner and Florence may be PPH’s biggest donors today (after the taxpayers, of course.) The Gardner and Florence Call Cowles Foundation gave $1 million to PPH in 2006 and still gives over $100,000 annually to Planned Parenthood in Iowa, including 2012.

John Cowles and Elizabeth Morley Bates Cowles

Elizabeth Bates Cowles (of the front of PPH headquarters) was married to Gardner Sr.’s son John Cowles, Sr. John started as a reporter at the Register and moved up the ranks to general manager and associate publisher. From 1945 to 1970, he was chairman of the board of the Des Moines Register and Tribune Company.

Elizabeth Bates Cowles was a founder of the Maternal Health League, which became Planned Parenthood in Iowa in 1934. She was a big fan of Planned Parent-hood’s founder Margaret Sanger. When the Cowles family purchased the Minneapolis Star in 1935, John was made publisher. The family moved to Minneapolis, where Bates Cowles continued to promote Planned Parenthood.

John Sr. and Elizabeth had four children: Sarah, Russell Cowles II, Elizabeth and John Jr.

Gardner “Mike” Cowles, Jr. and Lois Thornburg Cowles

Mike, also son of Gardner Sr. and Florence, was publisher of the Des Moines Register in the 1940s after his father and President of the Register and Tribune from 1943 to 1971.

Lois Thornburg Cowles, his second of four wives, was a reporter for the Register. Later in life she spent many years working for Planned Parenthood in Lakeland, FL, and after she passed away, that Planned Parenthood was named after her.

Mike and Lois had three children, Lois, Gardner “Pat” and Kate that donated tens of thousands of dollars to PPH over the last ten years, even though none of them were living in Iowa.

Lois Cowles Harrison Hooks was President of the Florida Association of Planned Parenthood Affiliates.

Gardner “Pat” Cowles III was President of the Cowles Charitable Trust and the Gardner Cowles III Charitable Trust which both donated to PPH.

Kate Cowles Nichols was also on the Board of the Cowles Charitable Trust, which gave $25,000 to Planned Parenthood in Naples, FL.

David Kruidenier and Elizabeth Stuart Kruidenier

The Kruidenier name entered the family when Florence, the daughter of Gardner Cowles Sr. and Florence Call Cowles married David Kruidenier. Florence and David had four children: David Jr., Sue, Nancy and Peter.

David Jr. began at the Minneapolis Star and was later president, publisher and chairman of the Des Moines Register from 1971-1985. Elizabeth Kruidenier served on the Board of Trustees and the Board of Sponsors for PPH.

Both David and Elizabeth Kruidenier have passed away, but like Gardner and Florence Cowles, their foundation still feeds Planned Parenthood in Iowa. In PPH’s 2012 Annual Report, the Kruidenier Foundation gave between “$50,000-99,000” to Iowa’s largest abortion provider. In 2006, 2007 and 2008, the Kruidenier Foundation gave $100,000+ annually to PPH.

Lisa Kruidenier, David and Elizabeth Kruidenier’s daughter, has served on PPH’s Board of Directors. She is also President of the Kruidenier Charitable Foundation.

Charles C. Edwards and Sue Kruidenier Edwards

Sue Kruidenier (sister of David Jr.) married Dr. Charles C. Edwards, who was at one time the head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In an interesting twist, Dr. Edwards angered Planned Parenthood Federation in 1969, when he ordered a message be inserted in packets of birth control pills warning about possible dangerous side effects, including blood clots and breast cancer. He also had two birth control brands removed from the market as unsafe.

In the New York Times obituary for Dr. Edwards in August 2011, it said, “Planned Parenthood objected to the warnings because it believed the pills’ benefits far outweighed what it said were unproven dangers.” (Sound familiar? It’s exactly what Planned Parenthood is saying about medication abortions today.)

Those differences did not stop the couple from donating tens of thousands of dollars annually to Planned Parenthood, both in Southern California where they lived and in Iowa. To PPH, they gave as much as $10,000-24,999 in 2006 to $5,000-9,999 in 2008 and another $5,000-9,999 in 2009. In 2012, Sue K. Edwards gave over $25,000 to Planned Parenthood in San Diego and Riverside Counties in California.

So what do they have to do with the Des Moines Register?

Charles C. Edwards, Jr. and Rusty Hubbell Edwards

Charles C. Edwards Jr., son of Charles and Sue, was publisher of the Des Moines Register from 1984-1996. His wife, Rusty Hubbell-Edwards once threw a big party for PPH in her home in Naples, FL. The couple is now divorced, but PPH’s 2012 Annual Report shows Rusty Hubbell on the Board of Trustees.

The younger Charles Edwards is not on PPH’s donor list, but he was President of the Gardner and Florence Call Cowles Foundation, which donated $1 million to Planned Parenthood in Iowa. He is currently the Dean of the Drake University School of Journalism.

Hubbell-Edwards was the daughter of James Hubbell, Jr., the prominent Des Moines businessman who headed Equitable Life Insurance, and Helen Hubbell. They were also PPH donors, and Rusty’s brother Fred and wife Charlotte have both served on PPH’s Board of Sponsors.

John Cowles Jr. and Jane “Sage” Fuller Cowles

John Jr. was publisher of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune from 1968 to 1983. His wife, Sage Fuller Cowles, was President of Planned Parenthood in Minneapolis and sat on the board of Planned Parenthood Federation. They did not donate to PPH in Iowa, but their son did.

Sage’s mother, Jane White Canfield, was a sculptor and author of children’s books in New York.

According to her 1984 obituary in the New York Times she was an early supporter of Planned Parenthood. After attending an International Planned Parenthood Conference in New Delhi in 1938, she said, ”You can’t go to India and not think birth control is the most important thing in the world.”

John “Jay” Cowles III and Page Knudsen Cowles

John and Sage’s son, Jay Cowles, (John Cowles III) was also publisher of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Jay’s wife, Page, served on the board at Planned Parenthood of Minnesota/South Dakota. As recently as 2006, the couple donated to PPH in the $1,000-4,999 range.

Arthur A. Ballantine and Elizabeth “Morley” Cowles Ballantine

Arthur A. Ballantine, a reporter with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, married Morley, daughter of John Cowles and Elizabeth Bates Cowles. She was on the Board at the Des Moines Register and Tribune and publisher at the Durango Herald in Colorado. In 2004, she received the “Margaret Sanger Award” from Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. A 2009 obituary for her in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune said “she was a strong advocate for Planned Parenthood in her native Iowa and Colorado.”

Paul Leavitt and Elizabeth Ballantine Leavitt

Elizabeth is the daughter of Arthur and Morley. She was a reporter for the Des Moines Register and Paul was a city editor for the Register. He is currently Washington News Editor for USA Today and she is a Director of the McClatchy Company, which owns over 30 newspapers. The McClatchy Company purchased Cowles Media in 1998. Elizabeth was on PPH’s Board of Sponsors and she and her husband contributed over $100,000 to PPH in 2012.

Richard Ballantine and Mary Lyn Allen Ballantine

Richard is the son of Morley and her first husband, Richard Pillsbury Gale, Jr. He followed his mother as the publisher at the Durango Herald. He is now retired, but is still Chairman of the Board for Ballantine Communications, which owns the Herald. Richard and Mary Lyn contributed over $100,000 to PPH in 2012.

Edward Healy and Helen Ballantine Healy

Helen is the daughter of Arthur A. Ballantine and Morley Cowles Ballantine. She and her husband contributed over $100,000 to PPH in 2012. With her siblings, Helen is a trustee of the Ballantine Family Fund, that gave $3,000 to Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains in 2012. She is also on the Board of Directors for Ballantine Communications, which owns the Durango Herald and three smaller newspapers.

Culture of Kowtowing

It is amazing to look at all of these people and realize they are from one family tree—and how intertwined they are with Planned Parenthood.

But it is easy to imagine that any of these publishers, owners and editors would not question Planned Parenthood—their people, their methods or ambitions—when they sit across the dinner table each night from a member of Planned Parenthood’s board. It is easy to understand how they abandoned reporting and became purveyors of the Planned Parenthood marketing message.

The Cowles family sold the Des Moines Register to Gannett, its current owner, in 1985. While the Cowles may have moved on, the culture of kowtowing to Planned Parenthood still exists.

A few months ago, Des Moines Register Publisher Rick Green posted Gannett’s “Principles of ethical conduct” for its newspapers. One of them is: “We will be persistent in our pursuit of the whole story.” Clearly that’s not happening with The Register and Planned Parenthood.

Will they change? If not, the next Planned Parenthood built in Iowa should be named “The Des Moines Register.”

1 comment
  1. I already had a general awareness of these family ties of Planned Parenthood supporters and their connection to the Des Moines Register. The research and article by Jenifer Bowen provides an expansive detailed outline . I believe that this single story of liberal and libertine philosophy, practice and control by old family wealth and influence could be multiplied innumerable times across the spectrum of American institutions.
    It is also true that many institutions that were founded by devout Christians and other institutions that began with traditional values were infiltrated and taken over by liberals and leftists.

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