House committee chairman distances himself from Scott DesJarlais

Arkansas-Tennessee Live Blog

WASHINGTON - Three powerful House committee chairmen are hosting a fundraiser next week for U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, but one already is distancing himself from the event and the embattled Tennessee Republican.

A DesJarlais aide listed U.S. Rep. John Kline, chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, as a host for a $500-per-plate fundraiser at a Washington restaurant.

But Kline's office told the Chattanooga Times Free Press the Minnesota Republican never planned to appear at the March 19 event.

Kline spokesman Troy Young offered a terse explanation when asked why his boss agreed to host but would not attend.

"Congressman Kline has a working relationship with all of his committee members," Young said.

Asked if Kline wants DesJarlais to win re-election in 2014, Young declined to comment.

A medical doctor, the anti-abortion Jasper, Tenn., congressman attracted negative publicity in October and November when interviews and documents revealed he had sex with his patients and encouraged one to get an abortion. DesJarlais won a second term, but further documents showed he supported his ex-wife's two abortions while he was married to her.

Kline himself was unable to be reached during House votes Thursday. He's said to be mulling a challenge to U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn.

Two DesJarlais aides did not respond to requests for comment Thursday night.

The fundraising invitation also lists Republicans Darrell Issa of California, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Frank Lucas of Oklahoma, Tom Price of Georgia and Steve Scalise of Louisiana as hosts or special guests.

Like Kline, Issa and Lucas lead House committees.

DesJarlais has attracted state Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, as a 2014 primary challenger. Several other state legislators may run, too.

Staff Writer Andy Sher contributed to this story.

Contact staff writer Chris Carroll at ccarroll@times or 423-280-2025.