By Lamar White
Yesterday, Rep. Bill Cassidy, an Illinois native who is now the front-runner in the run-off election for U.S. Senate in Louisiana, responded to a series of recently disclosed public records calling into question the nature of his ongoing work relationship with Louisiana State University Health Science Center while also serving in the United States Congress. In separate interviews with The Hill, The Times-Picayune, and The Advocate, Cassidy directly contradicted what his campaign spokeswoman, Jillian Rogers, told E&E Daily, an energy industry news publication, in July of this year, months before these records were released. Then, Cassidy and his campaign claimed that LSU-HSC was merely covering his out-of-pocket expenses for medical malpractice insurance. We now know that in addition to paying for his insurance, licensing fees, and continuing medical education classes, LSU also provided the Congressman with a base salary of $20,000.
Per the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, Cassidy was supposed to have been teaching part-time, 16 hours a month. Instead, his arrangement with LSU called on him to continue his clinical work for 30 hours a month.
Apparently, as his time sheets indicate, he wasn’t just being paid a salary for work he didn’t do, which has serious legal implications; he was being paid for work he couldn’t do, which has ethical implications.
The records, which were first reported here on CenLamar and by Jason Berry of The American Zombie, include 16 time sheets submitted by Cassidy to LSU-HSC, e-mail correspondence between Cassidy and LSU-HSC administrators, and Cassidy’s personnel status forms. Taken together, along with the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct’s advisory opinion regarding Cassidy’s employment, the documents raise serious legal and ethical questions about the Congressman’s compensation and benefits package from LSU, as well as his actual work-related responsibilities as a tenured Associate Professor of Medicine, Teaching, and Research. According to time sheets, on at least 21 separate occasions, Cassidy billed LSU-HSC for work done on the same days as he attended committee meetings and cast roll call votes in Washington, D.C.
Cassidy downplayed those questions and refuted criticism of his work with LSU-HSC, arguing that his time sheets accounted for only a portion of the time he spent on the job and claiming that he frequently worked from Baton Rouge during the morning and flew to Washington, D.C. in time for the roll call votes in the evening. He also claimed that he occasionally checked in with LSU resident physicians working in area D.C. hospitals as a part of his job with LSU-HSC. Even if his baffling work schedule is true, it appears that he directly violated the guidelines established by the House Committee, and it raises further and perhaps even more important questions about how seriously Cassidy treated his full-time job in Congress. His same-day jaunts down to LSU-HSC’s clinics and back up to Washington, D.C., all on the taxpayer’s dime, are also troubling and profoundly hypocritical, particularly considering his relentless attacks against Mary Landrieu, his opponent in the race, for inappropriately charging $33,000 in travel expenses to her Senate office and not her campaign, an error for which she apologized and quickly rectified.
“(Cassidy) said he would log about three hours in the clinic, supervising residents who were treating patients, on Monday and three more hours on Tuesday morning,” reports The Advocate. “Then he would board a noon flight back to Washington, which would put him on Capitol Hill by late afternoon, in time to make votes.”
Cassidy, if he is to be believed, has spent his years in Congress working two different jobs, collecting checks and benefits from both the state and the federal government. As admirable as the practice of medicine may be, Bill Cassidy was supposed to hang up his stethoscope the day he took the oath of office as a Congressman. Physicians are prohibited from earning outside compensation for the practice of medicine, though they can be reimbursed for the actual expenses- not a salary- necessary to conduct charitable medical services. As previously reported, Cassidy was approved by the House Committee to teach classes for credit, on a part-time basis, at LSU-HSC. His correspondence with LSU-HSC administrators reveals that almost immediately after he was elected, he hoped to either be exempted from the “teaching” requirement or, alternately, to interpret the definition of “teaching” so broadly as to actually include his own practice of medicine.
In his campaign for the U.S. Senate, Cassidy has touted his experience as a medical doctor, often appearing in campaign commercials and direct mail pieces dressed in scrubs and a lab coat. He’s attempted to use his work as a doctor to deflect criticism over his voting record, and much to his credit, he has been effective, even if, at times, his deflections have been disingenuous. Yesterday, in his interviews with the media, Cassidy acted as if he was somehow being victimized for earning more than $100,000 from LSU-HSC since he was elected. “Cassidy said he regrets that his work at LSU — which he contends has helped many patients, some of whom ‘travel from Lake Charles and other communities to get treatment from me’ — is being made into a campaign issue,” The Times-Picayune reported. Given the hours he submitted in his time sheets to LSU-HSC, it is highly unlikely that Cassidy, while a member of Congress, actually “helped many patients” who traveled from all over the state to “get treatment” from him. But that’s not even the real issue: He was specifically and explicitly prohibited by the House Committee from earning a salary in the practice of medicine.
Continue reading this post at CenLamar.com.