published Sunday, December 16th, 2012

Big names gave to Scott DesJarlais after revelations


by Chris Carroll
U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais
U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais
Photo by The Knoxville News Sentinel /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
THE GIVERS

More than a dozen House Republicans contributed money to U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais after it was revealed the anti-abortion lawmaker had affairs and pressured one former patient/lover to get an abortion.

Among them:

• U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga. — $1,000

• Incoming House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas — $2,000

• House Republican Policy Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga. — $2,500

Coca-Cola, FedEx and Lockheed Martin were among the corporations that financed U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais' re-election campaign after revelations that he slept with a patient and pressured her to have an abortion.

Political action committees representing at least 15 corporations and interest groups -- including the National Pro-Life Alliance -- gave more than $25,000 to the Jasper Republican after the Huffington Post published the revelations Oct. 10. The story brought national attention to Tennessee's 4th District and the congressman's claims of anti-abortion credentials.

More groups, the Tea Party Express among them, ponied up after the Chattanooga Times Free Press published an Oct. 28 interview with a second woman who had an affair with DesJarlais while he was her physician.

Asked whether the revelations affected their support for DesJarlais, Tea Party Express spokesman Taylor Budowich said the group believes the economy is the most important issue.

"We focus exclusively on the candidate's stand on how to right America's fiscal woes," Budowich said. "We have made no decisions about 2014 in any district."

A National Pro-Life Alliance representative did not respond to a request for comment.

Campaign finance records released this month also reveal that the Jasper Republican's late-campaign donors included 16 House colleagues -- all men, all Republican and none from Tennessee -- who gave a combined $48,000. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California, the third-ranking House Republican, donated $5,000 a day before the election.

A $2,000 contribution came from House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, one of two congressional DesJarlais backers who responded to a Times Free Press inquiry.

"Chairman Issa looks forward to continuing to work with Congressman DesJarlais as he pursues the best interest of his district and our nation in the coming Congress," Issa spokesman Frederick Hill said Friday.

DesJarlais sits on Issa's committee. The other respondent was U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas of Oklahoma.

"'No comment' is Congressman Lucas' response," Lucas spokesman Laramie Adams said.

Two fellow physicians-turned-politicians, Reps. Andy Harris of Maryland and Tom Price of Georgia, gave money after crucial parts of the controversy were published and confirmed by DesJarlais.

According to the American Medical Association, it's misconduct for a doctor to have a sexual relationship with a patient.

The Tennessee Department of Health has opened a complaint file on DesJarlais.

Neither Harris, an anesthesiologist, nor Price, an orthopedic surgeon, responded to requests for comment.

Neither did Coca-Cola and Lockheed Martin. But FedEx spokeswoman Maury Donahue said in a statement the Memphis-based shipping company does not discuss campaign contributions yet "recognizes the importance of playing an active role in the political process."

"We're really not going to say any more than what I provided," Donahue said in a voicemail.

Most of the businesses contacted by the Times Free Press declined to discuss their donations or whether they'll contribute again if DesJarlais asks in his 2014 re-election bid.

The donations came before the Nov. 6 election. Afterward, the Times Free Press obtained a copy of DesJarlais' divorce trial transcript.

The 679-page document showed DesJarlais supported his ex-wife's two abortions and had sexual relationships with two patients, three co-workers and a pharmaceutical saleswoman when he was medical chief of staff at Grandview Medical Center in Jasper.

Since all the revelations, DesJarlais has said that God has "forgiven me" and asked "fellow Christians" and constituents "to consider doing the same."

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