Medical PACs pull back from DesJarlais

Medical PACs pull back from DesJarlais

December 2nd, 2012 by Chris Carroll in Local Regional News

U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais

Photo by The Knoxville News Sentinel /Times Free Press.

What the PACs said about DesJarlais

* Advanced BioHealing PAC: $1,000

Response: "Decisions regarding 2014 contributions have not yet been made."

* American Academy of Family Physicians: $1,000

Response: "We do not ever condone inappropriate behavior between physicians and patients, nor have we knowingly provided PAC funds to candidates who have demonstrated unethical behavior."

* American Academy of Neurology: $2,000

Response: Will not donate in 2014.

* American Academy of Opthalmology: $1,000

Response: Did not respond

* American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: $5,000

Response: Will not donate in 2014.

* American Association of Clinical Urologists: $1,000

Response: "Thank you for the opportunity, but [we have] no comment at this time."

* American Association of Neurological Surgeons: $2,000

Response: "Until this week, we had no knowledge of any of the allegations made against Rep. DesJarlais. ... I believe I can safely say that NeurosurgeryPAC will not be contributing to Rep. DesJarlais in the future."

* American College of Cardiology: $3,000

Response: "Candidates for PAC support are evaluated on a case-by-case basis with available evidence by a board that consists of members from across the country."

* American College of Emergency Physicians: $9,500

Response: Did not respond

* American College of Radiology: $5,000

Response: "Of course, RADPAC had no knowledge of these circumstances ... and has no comment on them. We also don't comment on hypothetical questions regarding what will happen two years from now."

* American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: $1,000

Response: Did not respond

* American Dental Association: $3,500

Response: Did not respond

* American Health Care Association: $6,000

Response: Did not respond

* American Osteopathic Information Association: $2,500

Response: "Certainly any allegations or sanctions of ethical issues would be provided by staff to the Board for their consideration."

* American Psychiatric Association: $1,000

Response: Did not respond

* American Society of Anesthesiologists: $6,000

Response: Did not respond

* American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians: $1,000

Response: Did not respond

* BlueCross BlueShield Association: $1,000

Response: "We would certainly look at any request like that, but we also don't anticipate that we would contribute."

* DaVita (kidney care): $1,000

Response: Did not respond

* Federation of American Hospitals: $2,000

Response: Did not respond

* Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) Good Government Fund: $1,500

Response: "Our dealings with Representative DesJarlais have been in his role as congressman representing Tennesseans from the Fourth District. ... Disbursements from the HCA Good Government Fund [PAC] are a matter of public record."

* Lifepoint Hospitals: $3,500

Response: Did not respond

* MetLife: $1,000

Response: Did not respond

* National Association of Health Underwriters: $2,000

Response: Did not respond

* National Healthcare Corp.: $4,500

Response: Did not respond

* Unum: $2,000

Response: "Given the new revelations, I think it's safe to say our PAC would not continue to support Rep. DesJarlais. ... I'd like to add to my last comment that the UnumPAC won't make contribution decisions for the 2014 election cycle until next year. When it does, it will follow the criteria in its policy on political contributions, one of which is the 'integrity and character of the candidate.'"

* US Oncology Network: $1,000

Response: Did not respond

Political action committees connected to the health industry gave a combined $71,000 to U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais' successful re-election effort.

But at least six PACs that gave to DesJarlais' 2012 campaign, including local insurance giants BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and Unum, said they won't give again in 2014.

"Anytime you support someone, you have an association with them," BlueCross spokesman Roy Vaughn said. "That becomes difficult if their behavior is something that doesn't reflect well on your organization."

Another half-dozen PACs representing health professionals, hospitals, nursing homes and health insurance companies said they haven't decided on DesJarlais. The remaining 15 that donated to the physician-turned-congressman did not respond to a Chattanooga Times Free Press inquiry.

DesJarlais said he plans to seek a third term in 2014.

Based on the congressman's sworn testimony and other court records, the Times Free Press reported DesJarlais had sexual relationships with multiple female patients and co-workers while he was chief of staff at Grandview Medical Center.

American Medical Association standards label DesJarlais' admitted behavior unethical; records show he gave one patient-lover jewelry, a plane ticket to Las Vegas and prescriptions for pain medicine.

A court blocked release of the documents until after DesJarlais' re-election.

"Given the new revelations," Unum spokesman Jim Sabourin said, "I think it's safe to say our PAC would not continue to support Rep. DesJarlais."

Donations from the medical industry made up 20 percent of the congressman's $400,000 in PAC donations.

PACs that did not respond to requests for comment include the American Dental Association, MetLife and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which "represents women's health interests in Washington as no other national organization can," according to its website.

But six PACs said the revelations were more than enough to cancel a future political relationship. Several said they wouldn't have helped DesJarlais if the revelations had surfaced before they made their contributions. The remaining PACs either declined to comment or said 2014 is a long way off.

"We ... don't comment on hypothetical questions regarding what will happen two years from now," said Ted Burnes, director of the American College of Radiology's RADPAC, which gave $5,000 to DesJarlais.

On television ads and yard signs, the 4th District Republican campaigned as "Dr. Scott DesJarlais." But the medical community's disappointment could complicate the Jasper general practitioner's future re-election efforts.

"We do not ever condone inappropriate behavior between physicians and patients, nor have we knowingly provided PAC funds to candidates who have demonstrated unethical behavior," said Dr. Douglas Henley, CEO of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Historically, DesJarlais' largest donations have come from the medical community. Individual health professionals gave him about $100,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which monitors campaign donations and expenditures.

Dr. Richard Levine, a physician at Grandview, has given $8,000 to DesJarlais' campaigns since 2009. He doesn't plan to stop despite the revelations.

"If you have somebody like that, you can call and say, look, we have a problem with this rule and regulation through Obamacare - can you investigate this and do something about it?" Levine said.

"Obviously that's a better deal for me and my cohorts than it would be for me to call some guy who was a lawyer. And who knows if the lawyer wasn't having the same problems that Scott was having in the past?"

Staff writer Rachel Bunn contributed to this story.