Magazine article Insight on the News

Moonlighting Rule Says No Doctors in the House

Magazine article Insight on the News

Moonlighting Rule Says No Doctors in the House

Article excerpt

Some congressmen who moonlight as physicians think the House Standards of Official Conduct (Ethics) Committee is throwing out the baby with the bathwater. In early June, Oklahoma Republican Rep. Tom Coburn, an obstetrician, asked the ethics panel of the committee to determine whether his weekend baby-delivering service is unlawful under House rules.

According to the House Ethics Manual, a written code of conduct for members, congressmen who render medical services are breaking House moonlighting rules. Congressmen are prohibited from earning an outside income in excess of 15 percent of their congressional salary.

Coburn's spokesman, Karl Ahlgren, says his boss received a letter from the ethics panel giving him the go-ahead to practice medicine to pay for medical-malpractice insurance in 1994, the year he first was elected. Yet, when newly elected members of the 105th Congress who also practice medicine made similar requests, they received letters from the ethics panel prohibiting them from earning income for medical work, Ahlgren says.

When the ethics panel allowed Coburn to practice medicine, apparently it had overlooked a rule in the manual specifically forbidding doctors, lawyers, insurance brokers and real-estate agents from earning a profit from outside work, as well as the rationale behind the rule. The guide mentions the obvious time conflicts of working outside the halls of Congress, and says that constituents may perceive this double career as evidence that their representatives are cashing in on their influential positions. …

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