Debra J. Saunders
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In July, federal authorities indicted Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, on corruption charges on the grounds that Alaska's Prince of Earmarks concealed hundreds of thousands of dollars of gifts and improvements to his Alaska home provided by a powerful oil services company. Also this summer, amid the mortgage meltdown, newspapers reported that a number of senators -- including Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, D-Conn.; Kent Conrad, D-N.D.; and Barack Obama, D.-Ill. -- were the beneficiaries of sweetheart home loans.

In June, the Senate Ethics Committee began an initial look into Dodd's and Conrad's discounted Countrywide Financial VIP loans, as is fitting. Meanwhile, with all of the ethics stink bombs lurking in Washington, the committee, chaired by California Democrat Barbara Boxer, is aiming its guns at Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., for "a serious violation of Senate rules."

Coburn's bad? An obstetrician by profession, Coburn won't heed the committee's threat to reprimand him for delivering babies back home in Oklahoma -- for free.

"On my own time, I'm taking care of women who have a need, and I'm going to continue to deliver babies," Coburn told Politico.com.

And, bully for him: "I'm not going to stop." When a member of the House, Coburn delivered 400 babies under an agreement with ethics meisters that allowed him to do so -- if he charged only enough to cover his expenses.

When elected to the Senate, which was first run by Republicans and now Democrats, Ethics Committee members told Coburn that if he wants to treat patients -- largely poor and "at risk" mothers -- he could not charge them, and thus would have to eat the costs of his practice.

The Senate Ethics Committee allows big-buck book deals for U.S. senators, but in a May memorandum, it told Coburn, "you are allowed to practice medicine if you provide such services for free." So he started working for nothing.

Even free wasn't good enough. After the Muskogee Regional Medical Center, where he practices, was taken over by a for-profit operation, the committee told Coburn to cease "providing any and all medical services" by June 22, pursuant to Senate Rule 37 on conflicts of interest. Coburn could practice medicine only as a solo practitioner, for a private entity that provides services for free, or for a government or tribal health facility.

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Debra J. Saunders


 
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