John Kline hosting fundraiser for "anti-abortion zealot with running tab at Planned Parenthood"
Kline (left) is hosting a fundraiser for DesJarlais, a Republican who opposes abortions except in cases where he's knocked someone up.
U.S. Rep. John Kline is under fire for hosting a fundraiser for embattled Tennessee U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais. Kline's office says he won't be attending the event.
In our recent cover feature about the 10 Weirdest Members of Congress, DesJarlais was characterized as "the anti-abortion zealot with a running tab at Planned Parenthood."
Here's what our Caleb Hannan wrote about the embarrassing sex scandal that won DesJarlais recognition as our eighth-weirdest Congressperson:
Scott DesJarlais, a family doctor from the outback of Tennessee, is stridently pro-life, known for his righteous denunciations of abortion and adultery.
"All life should be cherished and protected," he declares on his website. Except when that life poses an inconvenience for Scott DesJarlais.
His problems began when he cheated on his first wife in an affair with a patient, and the patient got pregnant.
To save his marriage -- and prove the affair was over -- the Tennessee Tomcat devised the most misguided coverup since Watergate. He secretly recorded a conversation with his mistress in which he pressured her to get an abortion.
The cherished life of his child had become a "problem" that needed to be "fixed."
"You told me you'd have an abortion," DesJarlais says on the tape. "And now we're getting too far along without one."
As you might expect, his ham-fisted reconciliation plan backfired. As it turns out, DesJarlais wasn't just a serial philanderer; he'd also spent years compiling frequent-flier miles at Planned Parenthood.
Last November, the congressman's 700-page divorce-trial testimony went public. In it, he admitted to affairs with three co-workers, a drug rep, and two other patients. He also confessed to encouraging his wife to get two abortions before they were married.
But these revelations didn't move DesJarlais to a healthy round of soul-searching. Instead, he played the victim card, blaming a political opponent for "false, personal attacks."
When that didn't work -- he'd taped his own confession, after all -- he took cover in religion, claiming that God had given him a mulligan.
"I know God's forgiven me," DesJarlais announced. "I simply ask my fellow Christians and constituents to do the same." In other words, if his constituents weren't up for "grace and redemption," they were rejecting direct orders from the Lord himself.
DesJarlais was abandoned by members of his own party. The Tennessee Conservative Union, the largest and oldest right-wing group in the state, demanded that he resign.
"The level of shamefulness was unprecedented," says Tennessee Democratic spokesman Brandon Puttbrese. "This is a doctor who had sex with patients and then tried to lecture people on health-care policy, as if he gave a good damn about being an ethical physician."
Yet the cloak of God still trumps hypocrisy in the fundamentalist backwaters of middle Tennessee. DesJarlais was re-elected by a comfortable margin last fall, allowing him to carry on as Washington's official face of grace and redemption.
A National Journal report backgrounds the fundraiser Kline is hosting for the love doctor:
Even though he's hosting a fundraiser next week for the campaign of scandal-plagued Rep. Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee, Rep. John Kline of Minnesota is distancing himself from the event, with a spokesman claiming he never planned to attend in the first place. Kline, the chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee [DesJarlais is also a member], was listed as a host of the fundraiser, as his office confirmed...
"Congressman Kline has a working relationship with all of his committee members," Kline's aide said when asked why the congressman agreed to host but would not attend the event. Kline's office pointed out that it's not unusual for congressmen to host events and not attend them. Later, his spokesman Troy Young said Kline could not attend because he had other fundraising events on his schedule.
Kline is considered a possible Republican challenger to Democratic Sen. Al Franken in Minnesota.
According to the Star Tribune, tickets for the fundraiser cost $500 for individuals and $1,000 for political action committees. More from the Strib:
"Congressman Kline's support for disgraced, Tea Party hypocrite Scott DesJarlais is just one more example of how out of touch Kline is with Minnesota," said Andy Stone, a spokesman for the House Majority PAC, a Democratic aligned Super Pac that is targeting Kline in next year's congressional elections...
House Democrats argue that even if Kline doesn't directly raise cash for DesJarlais at the event, lending his name is a show of support that sends a message to potential donors seeking influence with a powerful committee chairman.
"Congressman Kline has gone Washington," said Brandon Lorenz of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). "Not only is he supporting a scandal-plagued Tea Party extremist like Scott Desjarlais, he's also helping him line his campaign war chest."
One Tennessee Republican has already announced he'll challenge DesJarlais in a primary in 2014, and another Republican says he'll likely enter the primary fray as well.
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