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Friday, April 06, 2018 1:00 am

Rokita campaign supports GOP ally

PAC aided legislator accused of hypocrisy

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita is running for a Senate seat from Indiana as a firm opponent of abortion rights. Yet a political action committee affiliated with Rokita has given $9,000 to the campaigns of a fellow Republican lawmaker who, years before his election, had approved of abortions for his future wife and a woman with whom he had an affair.

The Fund for American Exceptionalism has made four financial contributions since 2014 to the re-election campaigns of Tennessee Rep. Scott DesJarlais, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. DesJarlais was first elected to Congress in 2010, the same year as Rokita, R-4th.

“As a lawmaker, he has been a strong advocate for pro-life policies,” Rokita campaign spokesman Nathan Brand said Thursday in a statement.

Brand also said that Rokita “is 100 percent pro-life, has been endorsed by Indiana Right to Life, and will always fight for the unborn.”

DesJarlais has received a 100 percent career score on votes important to National Right to Life, which opposes abortion rights. But his earlier abortion experiences have continued to hound him.

After DesJarlais' 2012 re-election, the Chattanooga Times Free Press revealed the contents of court records from his 2001 divorce showing the physician had supported his ex-wife's decision to have two abortions before they were married and, while married, had urged an abortion for a patient with whom he had had a sexual relationship.

The headline of a 2014 Politico story about DesJarlais' past asked, “The Biggest Hypocrite in Congress?” The headline of a 2016 Roll Call story asked, “Will Abortion Hypocrisy Haunt DesJarlais in Thursday Primary?” He won re-election both years.

The Fund for American Exceptionalism was organized in 2012 in Huntington as a leadership PAC affiliated with Rokita. It has made donations to DesJarlais' campaigns of $1,000 in 2014, $3,000 in 2016 and $2,000 and $3,000 in 2017.

Rokita is competing with U.S. Rep. Luke Messer, R-4th, and former state lawmaker Mike Braun in the May 8 Republican primary election. The winner will face Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly in the Nov. 6 general election.

Indiana Right to Life announced Tuesday it had endorsed all three of the Republican Senate candidates.

bfrancisco@jg.net