By now, most political news consumers have seen the latest controversies involving U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul which have been publicized in Kentucky's two largest newspapers.
Yet, as I catch up after being on assignment out of town, I wanted to be sure that the WHAS11 Political Blog included updates on these controversies, at least two of which were previously reported elsewhere but are getting more attention because of the prominence of the newspaper stories.
- Rand Paul formed his own "opthamology board" rather than be certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology. Though the Talking Points Memo "Muckraker" blog reported on the dissident board on May 27, after Jake Payne disclosed its existence on his PageOne Kentucky blog, the Joe Gerth story in the Courier-Journal picked up more steam, especially after Gerth followed up a Sunday newspaper story with a Monday opinion column criticizing Paul for not answering questions about the group. In fact, Paul's selectiveness in answering media questions might be the biggest campaign development to come out of this controversy.
- Rand Paul accepts Medicaid and Medicare payments from his eye patients, while decrying other government spending. The Lexington Herald-Leader's legitimate story on this point came one month after I wrote about it on this blog, when The Wall Street Journal posted this story:
Tea party favorite Rand Paul has rocketed to the lead ahead of Tuesday’s Republican Senate primary here on a resolute pledge to balance the federal budget and slash the size of government.
But on Thursday evening, the ophthalmologist from Bowling Green said there was one thing he would not cut: Medicare physician payments.
In fact, Paul — who says 50% of his patients are on Medicare — wants to end cuts to physician payments under a program now in place called the sustained growth rate, or SGR. “Physicians should be allowed to make a comfortable living,” he told a gathering of neighbors in the back yard of Chris and Linda Wakild, just behind the 10th hole of a golf course.
"It's the height of hypocrisy," said Trey Grayson campaign manager Nate Hodson.
“This is emblematic of his apparent belief that everyone else should pay, except for him. He evades paying taxes, advocates balancing the budget on the backs of Kentucky’s seniors and family farmers, and then openly states he would oppose cuts that might affect him directly. It is incredibly arrogant and hypocritical.”
3. Finally, Rand Paul is now accepting campaign contributions from U.S. Senators who voted in favor of TARP (bailouts), despite a primary campaign pledge that he would not accept such contributions. The latest update on this fundamental shift is from The Washington Post's David Weigel who got an interesting explanation from Paul's campaign manager, who said that Paul's primary campaign promise did not apply to the general election campaign:
Paul campaign manager Jesse Benton confirmed that the pledge is no longer operative, and explained that it was meant for the primary, when Paul was drawing a bright line between himself and Trey Grayson.
"That contest is won," said Benton. "He won the primary and he didn't take money from senators who backed the bailout. Now they're coming to support him, and he's not going to turn down support from Republicans. They're not looking for a seat at his table. They're supporting him because of his positions, and because of his steadfast commitment to principle."
As Paul needs to win the support of independents and registered Democrats, who knows if Paul's cozying up to the Republican establishment will hurt him? And, what about the Ron Paul supporters who provided the energy and impetus for Rand Paul's primary campaign? True believers can often be the least forgiving.
A couple of news releases from the Conway campaign and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee follow.
Jack Conway campaign news release
Rand Paul: Do As I Say, Not As I Do
Two major newspapers reveal Paul is just a typical politician who hypocritically says one thing, but does another.
Commitment to cutting government spending apparently does not apply to money that goes into Paul's Pocket
LOUISVILLE - In two of Kentucky's largest newspapers, Rand Paul has once again shown himself to be just a typical politician, hypocritically campaigning on principles that he doesn't adhere to and credentials he doesn't have. In Sunday's Lexington Herald-Leader and Louisville Courier-Journal, Paul made it clear he doesn't think he should be held to the same standards to which he holds the rest of the Commonwealth, and to standards by which many of the nation's doctors abide.
Rand Paul has made deficit reduction one of the signature issues of his Senate campaign. However, when it comes to government spending that benefits Paul, suddenly deficits don't matter.
The Herald reported Paul believes that as a physician he "should be allowed to make a comfortable living," which includes making roughly half of his medical income from the publicly-funded Medicaid and Medicare programs, which he staunchly defends despite his call to cut scholarships for our children, aid for our farmers and nearly every government-funded program besides the ones that line his pocket.
"Paul built his medical practice on payments from Medicare and Medicaid…On the campaign trail, Paul calls for the abolition of entire agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Education, while complaining that Medicare payments to doctors have been cut too deeply, making it one of the few government expenses he consistently defends," wrote Herald reporter John Cheeves.
Paul's acceptance of Medicaid and Medicare payments while he rails against other government spending gives him a markedly different position on the issue than his father Ron Paul, who is also a doctor, and as a Congressman and presidential candidate, has been critical of deficit spending.
"Ron Paul refuses to take Medicare and Medicaid funds, calling it 'stolen money,'" reported the Herald.
The Courier revealed Sunday another example of Paul deciding that the rules don't apply to him. This time by reforming an organization to validate his training and knowledge of medicine instead of using the panel which normally approves doctors.
Lori Boukas, a spokesperson for the American Board of Medical Specialties, which helps determine if physicians have the necessary skills and education for accreditation, told the Courier "He (Rand Paul) is not board certified."
In 2005, just three months before his certification lapsed with the organization recognized by the vast majority of Ophthalmologists, Paul reconstituted the National Board of Opthalmology, a group he originally incorporated in 1999 as a reaction to what he determined were overly stringent certification standards.
Under his own organization, Paul was able to tell patients he was "certified."
The Courier found, "the address for Paul's group is a UPS store in Bowling Green." Paul is the only ophthalmologist the newspaper could find who relies solely on the board he invented to claim certification.
Both hospitals where Paul practices require physician certification.
Furthering his growing reputation for not giving voters straight answers about his outside-the-mainstream views, Paul said he'd "never" answer any of the Courier's questions about his medical certification. In fact Jesse Benton, a spokesperson for the Paul campaign told the Courier Paul would not answer any questions "unless they were submitted in writing," and presumably screened.
These latest examples of Paul's hypocrisy and his constant weaving and dodging to avoid giving Kentuckians the answers they deserve about his record, follow weeks of him behaving like a typical politician.
First, Paul questioned fundamental principles of the Civil Rights Act and then backpedaled on his position. Then, he tried to spin his fevered defense of BP, having called criticism of the corporation for the greatest environmental disaster in history, "un-American." And last week Paul abandoned a core principle from his primary campaign, breaking a pledge not to accept money from Senators who voted for the bank bailout by scheduling a Washington fundraiser hosted with Mitch McConnell and other senators who voted for the bank bailout.
"Every time voters turn around, Rand Paul seems to be betraying their trust by changing his mind about his principles and beliefs. Like any typical politician, he seems to be influenced by the money that lines his pockets more than by what is good for Kentucky. We deserve a Senator like Jack Conway, who keeps his promises to those he serves and protects important programs, like Medicaid and Medicare," said Conway spokesperson Allison Haley.
Jack Conway campaign news release
RAND PAUL STONEWALLING, REFUSING TO ANSWER BASIC QUESTIONS
News Organizations Are Asking Questions, Kentuckians Deserve Answers
What is Rand Paul hiding?
LOUISVILLE - After weeks of weaving and dodging and avoiding every news outlet, except for a few select conservative talk shows, both the Louisville Courier-Journal and the Lexington Herald-Leader have called Rand Paul out for avoiding legitimate questions on important matters.
"When will politicians realize that not answering questions is a bad idea because it leaves the impression that they are hiding something...Rand Paul misses the point. He is right that the questions about his National Board of Ophthalmology have nothing to do with issues of national policy…They have to do with trust," wrote Courier-Journal political reporter Joe Gerth.
Similarly, while the Herald-Leader's John Cheeves reported that Rand Paul had been campaigning on slashing almost all federal programs except for the ones on which he "built his medical practice," Paul refused to tell the reporter how much he had billed Medicare.
Paul has built an early reputation in the General Election for spinning like a typical politician on a wide range of topics. First, Paul questioned fundamental principles of the Civil Rights Act and then backpedaled on his position. Then, he tried to spin his fevered defense of BP; he called criticism of the company "un-American." Just last week, Paul abandoned a pledge not to accept financial help from senators who voted for the bank bailout by scheduling a Washington fundraiser hosted by Mitch McConnell and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Gerth posted a partial list of questions he has for Paul in his column today after Paul told Gerth he would "never" answer questions about his own medical accreditation and after Paul's campaign said it would not answer any questions "unless they were submitted in writing," and presumably screened.
"Providing the questions in writing doesn't allow for follow-up questions. And it also doesn't allow a reporter to determine how much independent knowledge Paul has…" Gerth wrote in explanation.
Here were the questions Gerth posed to Paul, saying they aren't "tough" and "neither are the rest of them we'd like to ask."
1. What does the National Board of Ophthalmology certification process require? Does it require additional continuing medical education classes -- over and above what is required by the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure -- like the American Board of Ophthalmology requires?
2. Do doctors have to take a proctored exam to earn or maintain their certification? If so, what does that exam entail and who wrote the test?
3. The American Board of Ophthalmology recertification process costs about $1,500 every 10 years. How much does the National Board of Ophthalmology charge, and where do any proceeds from the organization go?
And while Paul is answering questions from the C-J, there are a few more questions to which voters deserve a straight answer from the GOP's nominee:
1. Did you mislead Kentuckians when you told the Associated Press that, as an Ophthalmologist, you are accredited by nationally-recognized American Board of Ophthalmology?
2. In Kentucky, certain Medicaid billing information is publically available. The information excludes names and other information that patients would not want the world to see. Why will you not release your practice's Medicare billing records which do not infringe on your patient's privacy?
3. Do you still believe criticizing BP is "un-American?" Do you believe the company has been forthcoming about the scope of the spill? Do you trust the company, and do you trust it to clean up the spill?
4. Do you believe you have been consistent by promising to never accept contributions from senators who voted for the bailout, but still accept their fundraising help?
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
LATEST EPISODE OF RAND PAUL ABANDONING HIS PRINCIPLES IN FAVOR OF POLITICAL EXPEDIENCY: AFTER SHUNNING CAMPAIGN DOUGH FROM THOSE WHO SUPPORTED BAILOUT, NOW CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF IT
It Hasn’t Even Been A Month Since The Primary, Rand Paul Losing All The Shine – Quickly Becoming Like Every Other Washington Politician
In a major campaign flip-flop, politician Rand Paul has changed his tune on accepting campaign contributions from Senators who voted for the bank bailout according to a new report from the Lexington Herald-Leader. During the primary campaign, Rand Paul routinely criticized his Republican establishment opponent Trey Grayson for holding lavish DC fundraisers with the Republican establishment who supported the bailout. Now, as the Republican nominee, Rand Paul has committed a major flip-flop and is now declaring himself open for business and is gladly accepting bailout money. In fact, Paul will be feted by the same group of Republican lawmakers he criticized only months ago at a lavish DC fundraiser on June 24th.
“Rand Paul continues to abandon his principals in favor of political expediency and is quickly becoming just like every other Washington politician,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee National Press Secretary Deirdre Murphy. “Only months after publicly criticizing his opponent for holding Washington fundraisers with lawmakers who supported the bailout, Rand Paul will be doing the exact same thing this month. On primary night, Kentucky Republicans thought they were getting a principled candidate but it turns out they have nominated just another Washington politician.”
Rand Paul continues to flip-flop and walk back his previously held convictions. A month after saying the Civil Rights Act shouldn’t apply to private business and refusing to say he would have voted in favor of the Civil Rights Act, Paul backtracked on his positions, saying the federal government was right to impose civil rights on private business. Paul committed the same politically expedient move after he defended BP after the oil spill, calling criticism of the company “Un-American.” Under fire for his remarks, Paul went back on his comments, saying government regulations of offshore drilling were not adequate. Paul has also gone into hiding with the media, refusing to conduct interviews and forcing journalists to submit all questions in writing despite “offering detailed answers on just about any topic during his primary campaign.”