U.S. Rep. John Kline, a six-term Minnesota Republican who is seen as a potential statewide candidate, came under fire from Democrats Thursday for lending his name to a fundraiser for an embattled Tennessee congressman accused in court papers of pressing his mistress to get an abortion.
Kline and Tennessee Republican Scott DesJarlais run as opponents of abortion rights. DesJarlais, a medical doctor, won a second term in November just as reports surfaced from a decade-old divorce case alleging that he had had an affair with a patient and pressured her to have an abortion.
Court papers released by the Tennessee Democratic Party shortly after his November re-election over Democrat Eric Stewart show that while practicing medicine, DesJarlais dated several patients, arranged with one to get an abortion, and agreed to an abortion for his then-wife.
"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.
Kline’s office said he was never scheduled to attend the March 19 fundraiser, and does not plan to attend. Kline’s name, however, appears as a host, along with GOP Reps. Darrell Issa of California and Frank Lucas of Oklahoma. A copy of the invitation, obtained by the Chattanooga Times Free Press, lists tickets at $500 per person and $1,000 for political action committees.
All three listed hosts chair House committees. Kline is chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee, which includes DesJarlais.
Kline spokesman Troy Young suggested that Kline’s role as host was merely an outgrowth of their committee work. “Kline has a working relationship with all of the members on his Education and the Workforce Committee,” he said.
But 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.”
DesJarlais told Nashville television station WKRN in January that "God has forgiven” him, and asked "constituents and fellow Christians to do the same."
According to the Times Free Press, he already faces a 2014 GOP challenge from state Sen. Jim Tracy, and a “likely challenge” from state Rep. Joe Carr.