Fourth District Congressman Scott DesJarlais, a Jasper Republican who is expected to face Democratic state Sen. Eric Stewart on the November ballot, is already on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's target list in emailed press releases – many of them similar to criticism aimed at other Republican lawmakers elsewhere in the nation.
Perhaps the most striking recent example is a missive earlier this summer that seeks to link DesJarlais' campaign financing to Chinese prostitution money. Says the opening paragraph: "Foreign Chinese prostitution money is allegedly behind the groups funding Congressman Scott DesJarlais's (TN-04) Republican Majority."
Almost identical news releases – except for the names – were used by the DCCC against Republican U.S. Reps. Jim Renacci in Ohio and Sean Duffy in Wisconsin. Our Politifact colleagues in Ohio and Wisconsin have sized up the DCCC claims and given them a "Pants On Fire" rating.
A Tennessee echo is in order.
The DCCC contention rests on billionaire casino operator Sheldon Adelson, who has given a lot of money to Republican campaign funds that are supporting DesJarlais and other GOP congressmen. Adelson, meanwhile, is facing a lawsuit from a former employee that includes allegations that Adelson approved of prostitution at a casino in Macau, a former Portuguese colony near Hong Kong that is now part of China.
The DCCC release cites media reports on the lawsuit contentions and a comment by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., that Adelson is "injecting millions of dollars in Chinese 'foreign money' " by contributing to Republican campaigns.
"What will Congressman Scott DesJarlais do when his Chinese prostitution money comes from billionaire Sheldon Adelson?" said Jesse Ferguson of DCCC in the release. "House Republicans like Congressman DesJarlais are fighting tirelessly to protect billionaires like Sheldon Adelson who make fortunes overseas and Adelson is now the largest single donor to Congressman DesJarlais's Republican Majority. It's past time for Congressman DesJarlais to reject the support of these groups funded by foreign money from a Chinese prostitution strategy."
Here's what Politifact Ohio reported on the matter: "The DCCC release noted that Adelson and his wife gave $5 million to the Congressional Leadership Fund Super PAC, which is backed by House Speaker John Boehner and other GOP leaders. FEC records indicate that Super PAC hasn’t spent anything so far.
"Adelson and his wife, Miriam, also gave more than $60,000 to the Republican counterpart of the DCCC, the National Republican Congressional Committee, during the past election cycle.
"A spokesman for the Adelson’s company, Las Vegas Sands, issued a statement that said Adelson has always ‘maintained a strong policy against prostitution on our properties and any accusation to the contrary represents a blatant and reprehensible personal attack on Mr. Adelson’s character.’"
In a July 9 interview with Forbes magazine, Adelson said there’s not a "shred of evidence" to back his former employee’s charges, and "says the fact that he and his wife (a physician who specializes in treating addiction) have given millions of dollars to set up clinics around the world to treat people with drug addictions (many of them prostitutes) makes the … claims even more preposterous." Adelson also told the publication that promoting prostitution could cost him his gaming licenses in Las Vegas, Singapore and Macau.
Basically, then, the charge by a disgruntled former employee is adamantly denied by Adelson.
DCCC has nonetheless seized upon the questionable claim, extrapolated and exaggerated it to taint all of Adelson's political donations with prostitution earnings. If stopped there, perhaps this could arguably fall into the realm of standard political hyperbole.
But to carry that on down a convoluted line to Scott DesJarlais and talk about "his Chinese prostitution money?"
Yep, that sounds like Pants On Fire to us, too.
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee news release, July 2, 2012
Politifact Wisconsin report, July 16, 2012
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