In the waning weeks of the 2014 Senate run-off election between incumbent Mary Landrieu and Baton Rouge Congressman and medical doctor Bill Cassidy, who is now closer than ever to secure the votes needed to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, I discovered a trove of public records, documents, and witness accounts that all suggested Dr. Cassidy had failed to account for the work he had conducted as a paid faculty member of LSU, a public university. These records were first sent to me by a blogger (link dead), who asked for my assistance in analyzing and unpacking the material, which I was more than happy to provide.
Nearly three-fourths of Cassidy’s time sheets had either gone missing or, more likely, were never created, and of those that were available, many seemed to suggest that the doctor was capable of bending time and space.
Cassidy’s employment arrangement with LSU was highly unusual, and even today, it’s unclear why or how LSU could pay a sitting Congressman at least $20,000 a year plus insurance benefits for his work or, more importantly, what his work actually entailed. Members of Congress are permitted to take part-time teaching jobs, but doctors in Congress can only practice medicine on a voluntarily basis.
Why did LSU want to compensate their own Congressman, a man who openly admitted to The Times-Picayune that he had no idea whether he was tenured (he was) or what that’d even mean? “As for tenure, Cassidy said he wasn’t even aware he had been kept in a tenured position,” Bruce Alpert reported.
“It doesn’t matter to me,” Cassidy told the paper at the time. “Who cares? If they aren’t satisfied with me and want to get rid of me, that’s fine. They’ve gotten rid of lots of tenured people in recent years,” comically misunderstanding the protections of tenure.
Cassidy also told The Times-Picayune that “although LSUHSC records don’t show him doing lectures, he taught students as he and they worked with patients at clinics and other facilities,” an apparent violation of laws prohibiting medical doctors in Congress from charging for medical care. “(Cassidy) also advised students, worked with them on their research and papers, including in Washington when he would meet with students doing residencies and internships in area medical facilities after the day’s congressional work ended,” reported The Times-Picayune, a tacit acknowledgment that Cassidy, while serving in Congress, would charge LSU for meetings he had with students who had already graduated, were living in the D.C. area, and were able to meet with the Congressman in his Capitol Hill office (emphasis added).
After I helped report this three years ago, LSU ordered an internal audit. By then, Cassidy had already been elected to the Senate, and LSU was only willing to acknowledge that the Senator had failed to “adequately document” his work, which, for whatever reason, was dismissed as unimportant. In the interim, I have spoken with two extremely knowledgable sources, both of whom requested anonymity in exchange for the opportunity to speak candidly and both of whom claim that Cassidy rarely showed up for his work at LSU and Angola, which also compensated him for his medical services.
“This arrangement should have been ended the moment he was elected to Congress, but it didn’t,” one of these sources told me. “Cassidy should have done this work for free, and he should have returned every dime LSU paid him. That would have been perfectly legal and honorable.”
Instead, earlier this year, a Louisiana state lawmaker attempted to pass a bill that would allow people like Bill Cassidy to continue to earn money in arrangements like this, which, ironically, is a tacit acknowledgment that his prior actions may have been in violation.
The truth is: No one paid much attention to the story about a Republican Congressman potentially over-billing taxpayers for work he could not document and a job he could not describe.
That same man got elected to the Senate.
And now, he’s on the verge of upending the entire health care system in America. What could possibly go wrong?