published Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

Scott DesJarlais opponent Jim Tracy leads funding race


by Chris Carroll
Sen. Jim Tracy
Sen. Jim Tracy
DNJ

1ST QUARTER FUNDRAISING

Fourth Congressional District fundraising totals between Jan. 1 and March 31.

Name - Raised - Spent - What's left

• Carr - $205,479 - 13,837.71 - 192,641.29

• DesJarlais - $104,475.25 - $26,385 - $87,426*

• Tracy - $436,485 - 32,483.26 - 404,001.74

• DesJarlais had $9,336 to start quarter.

Source: Federal Election Commission

WASHINGTON — House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., once spearheaded a bill to curb abortions in Washington, D.C. U.S. Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., says he votes "to help protect the sanctity of life."

U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., supports a federal abortion funding ban. And U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, boasts about belonging to "the Ohio Right to Life Pro-Life Hall of Fame."

Despite their anti-abortion bona fides, the same congressional quartet gave a combined $3,750 to U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., between Jan. 1 and March 31.

They defied two Republican challengers who say the incumbent's documented history of encouraging women to terminate pregnancies taints him too much for public office.

A Marion County, Tenn., physician who describes himself as "pro-life," DesJarlais won re-election last year after his own court testimony showed he pressured a former patient-lover to get an abortion.

Records published after the election revealed DesJarlais supported two of his ex-wife's three abortions.

Jordan and McKeon declined to respond to phone and email requests for comment on their contributions to DesJarlais in light of their anti-abortion voting records and public statements.

Meanwhile, Issa extolled the 4th District incumbent's committee work, and Mica described his colleague as prepared, educated and respected for his medical background.

In a phone interview, Mica said he was unaware of "any controversy" surrounding DesJarlais.

"I really don't know anything about what you're describing, and I don't know about his personal past life," Mica said. "I do know since he's come to Congress, he's been one of the most effective new members.

"If I spent all my time delving into the personal lives of 434 other members," the 11-term congressman added, "I would never get anything done."

Mica's $250 contribution didn't make much of an impact, as state Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, outraised DesJarlais by a 4-to-1 margin in the year's first quarter. Even the race's runner-up, state Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, nearly doubled what DesJarlais collected despite the incumbent's built-in name recognition and Washington connections. But Tracy remains the leader, reporting a cash-on-hand figure that dwarfs his two opponents' combined total.

Going into April 1, Tracy had $404,001 left in his campaign war chest. That's compared to $205,479 for Carr and $104,475 for DesJarlais, according to Federal Election Commission records released Tuesday.

In a news release this week, Tracy promised to "never compromise on my conservative principles" and included a quote from a top adviser calling DesJarlais "scandal ridden." But the financial frontrunner declined to criticize anti-abortion congressional Republicans who continue to bankroll DesJarlais.

"I'll work with anybody who will work with me," Tracy said Tuesday.

Carr offered similar thoughts when asked about DesJarlais and his high-powered supporters.

"All that's between him and God and him and the voters," Carr said.

DesJarlais aides did not respond to a request for comment.

The four congressional contributions represent a precipitous dropoff in Beltway support for DesJarlais, whose late-campaign donors included 16 House colleagues. Headed by House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., that group gave a combined $48,000 to DesJarlais in the days leading up to the 2012 election.

Meanwhile, a March 19 Capitol Hill fundraiser for DesJarlais appears to have been a bust. Only two of six lawmakers listed as hosts or special guests -- Issa and Jordan -- donated money.

Sixteen months away from the Republican primary, Vanderbilt University political science professor Bruce Oppenheimer said DesJarlais "hasn't raised enough to scare anybody out of the race."

"But his best avenue for potential success is that his challengers split the anti-DesJarlais vote," Oppenheimer said. "If you're DesJarlais, you would say: 'The more, the merrier.'"

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