NASHVILLE - National Democrats have launched a paid "grass-roots campaign" charging that U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., has sided with fellow Republicans "to protect the wealthiest 1 percent at the expense of seniors and the middle class."
Automated and live calls criticizing U.S. House Republicans -- and by implication DesJarlais -- began going out Tuesday in DesJarlais' 4th Congressional District.
The move signals national Democrats' belief that state Sen. Eric Stewart, D-Belvidere, who is running for the 4th District seat, is a credible candidate.
A script for the Democrats' calls said Americans wanted a "bipartisan, big, bold and balanced plan to reduce the deficit and grow our economy -- but that's not what we got."
The script says a congressional "supercommittee" failed to reach agreement on deficit problems "because Republicans insisted on extending the Bush tax breaks for millionaires and refusing to include a jobs proposal -- while ending the Medicare guarantee. That's something that Democrats stand strongly against."
The only mention of DesJarlais, a Jasper physician, comes when listeners are urged to call the congressman.
DesJarlais spokesman Robert Jameson took issue with Democrats seeking to link the congressman to the supercommittee. He said DesJarlais voted against the Budget Control Act that set up the panel and the congressman believes cuts should have been debated by the entire House and not 12 people behind closed doors.
The bipartisan supercommittee was charged with cutting more than $1 trillion but deadlocked, with Republicans supporting only spending cuts and Democrats backing both cuts and tax increases.
The Democrats' news release said they intend to hold DesJarlais "accountable for forcing the debt supercommittee to fail by demanding more tax breaks for billionaires while insisting the Medicare guarantee be eliminated."
Jameson said DesJarlais voted for Republicans' budget proposal that "closed loopholes for giant corporations while lowering overall tax rates so everybody pays their fair share."
As for charges that DesJarlais opposes Democratic efforts to raise taxes on the wealthiest, Jameson said "the congressman doesn't believe we need to raise taxes on anybody right now."
Democratic Party officials won't say how much they are spending on this week's effort.