Senator Coburn under fire for delivering babies for free


U.S. senators are not allowed to do remunerative work that involves a fiduciary relationship, lest they be unduly influenced by colleagues or customers. Now pro-life Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) is in the sights of the Senate Ethics Committee because he delivers babies free of charge at the Muskogee Regional Medical Center.

Coburn continued his obstetrics practice while serving in the House of Representatives, and campaigned for Senate on the pledge that he would continue to serve as a citizen-legislator, as the Founders intended. He earned only enough money as a physician to cover his expenses, such as professional liability insurance.

The Senate, however, does not distinguish between gross and net income, and demanded that he shut down his practice within 9 months (Jeffrey H. Birnbaum, Washington Post 4/6/05). Senate rules allow physicians such as former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a cardiac surgeon, to practice free of charge (Kathryn Jean Lopez, National Review Online 9/28/05).

The ethics panel renewed its concerns after the Muskogee Regional Medical Center converted to private ownership in April, and has threatened Coburn with censure.

Coburn has paid tens of thousands of dollars out of his own pocket for costs related to his medical practice. As he has pledged to leave the Senate after two terms, in 2016, he wants to maintain his skills so he can go back to earning a living from practicing medicine.

Coburn spokesman John Hart stated: “In the 10 years Dr. Coburn has provided free healthcare to his neighbors while serving in Congress, the Ethics Committee has never pointed to a single conflict of interest. No lobbyist or any individual has ever attempted to infiltrate his medical office under guise of an invasive medical exam to discuss Senate business.”

Hart also observed that Senator Leahy is not being targeted for making a cameo appearance in Batman. He donated the $2,000 he earned to a library. Nor are Senator Boxer or Senator Reid facing possible censure for holding book signings in private bookstores.

It so happens that Coburn is currently engaged in a battle with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) over the legislative agenda. Reid was forced to devote most of the Senate’s time recently to overpowering the hold that Coburn had placed on 35 bills. Coburn’s office suspects that an Ethics Panel memo was deliberately leaked for political reasons (Susan Crabtree, The Hill 7/28/08).

The charges may also be motivated by abortion politics, Hart suggested, as the Ethics Panel is dominated by pro-abortion senators. Family Research Council head Tony Perkins said he doubted that the panel would be targeting Coburn if he were doing free abortions for Planned Parenthood ( 8/7/08

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  1. Dear colleagues:
    On this interesting story of Dr/Senator Coburn I share his frustrations, but in a similar position I might have done the same just to be inconformist (with the majority of the Senate and House who are lawyers and who wrote all those little laws. But I knew I would get in trouble for my behavior like he has and like I did…
    Of those few MDs who are legislators, are there ANY who work at wiping out (“arresting all legislators -of both Houses- for Fraud” as Craig Cantoni suggests and as Fred Kilbourne’s horrible budget figures compel) closing down the entire US Congress on a 6 year Sebbatical, outlawing “repeats” of public service for all, kicking out the AMA, Medicare, Medicaid, State (disciplinary) Boards, all mandatory Health Insurance, and getting this huge government off our backs?
    Hearing these sad stories and not being able to do anything about them makes us just more disenfranchised with the medical (and legal) community and with this Country of ours!…

    F. Javier Monreal, MD

  2. Great. These senate losers who have been on the dole their whole lives and take payoffs from lobbyists/communist chinese, or have their relatives hip deep in favors (Obama’s wife’s salary doubled to 300,000 per yr as soon as he got elected as a “representative”) are worried about a patriotic American that has contributed to society in a positive way.

    Perhaps we should revisit the work of our founders as they farmed etc, and undoubtably sold produce (surely not tobacco) and obviously were bought off. And these sanctimonious bozos are worried Dr. Coburn will be “influenced” unduly?? They are just worried that Dr. Coburn does not fit in, he has been a real patriotic American with principles, a real job, helps people, and can’t be bought off.

    IF he was crooked and played with policy to favor the Chinese and got his wife a job dealing with the reds, then he would be accepted. Hello Boxer, you are a traitor. How expensive is a rope made in China. PS we do not need to worry if it was made with materials bad for your health for the purpose it will be used for.