U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, a part-time Baton Rouge physician who is the Republican candidate in the U.S. Senate runoff election Saturday, claimed he worked 3.5 hours for the LSU health services system on the same day in 2013 that official House video and voting records show him taking his seat at a committee hearing in Washington just before 11 a.m. EDT and participating in roll calls in Congress that afternoon and late into the night.
“He cut a deal with one of our public hospitals that is unethical and possibly illegal,” Landrieu said at a campaign appearance in Gretna. “He was double-dipping at the taxpayers’ expense.”
The records that seem to suggest Cassidy was “in two places at once,” as the Landrieu campaign says, reflect his activity on Tuesday, July 23, 2013. The Landrieu campaign also pointed to another possible discrepancy between Cassidy’s LSU time sheet and the congressional record, on Oct. 1, 2013 — also a Tuesday.
But the Cassidy campaign says Cassidy was not required to, nor did he, perform all the work for LSU while physically in Baton Rouge. Cassidy has defended his work for the state university, which announced Monday it would review his time sheets in response to media reports in the past week.
“I’ve said all along, if LSU no longer has a need for my services, they can let me go,” Cassidy said in a prepared statement. “Otherwise, I will continue to teach medical students and serve others in the LSU hospital system.
“Sen. Landrieu is attacking LSU more than she is me in her eleventh-hour attempt to salvage her political career.”
Landrieu edged Cassidy in the Nov. 4 open primary vote, 42 percent to 41 percent, leaving both short of the majority needed to win outright and avoid a runoff. The combined total for Republican candidates on the primary ballot was 56 percent, and polls consistently have predicted that Cassidy will ride the red wave to an easy victory Saturday.
Bloggers last week publicized Cassidy’s LSU time sheets, which reflect his arrangement to work part-time for the health system after he took office in Congress in January 2009.
Cassidy entered his hours worked on time sheets for Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge. On July 23, 2013, he put down 3.5 hours of “clinic services/resident supervision.” Video of the House Energy and Commerce Committee meeting that day shows him taking his seat in the committee hearing room in the U.S. Capitol in Washington shortly before 11 a.m. Eastern, or 10 a.m. Baton Rouge (Central) time. House records also show he participated in floor votes in the Capitol from 2:06 p.m. to 2:14 p.m., 6:40 p.m. to 7:22 p.m., and 10:22 p.m. to 11:01 p.m.
On Oct. 1 that year, just as the federal government shut down for 16 days in a budget dispute between House Republicans and Democratic President Barack Obama, Cassidy put in for four hours worked at Our Lady of the Lake, under the same service description. House records show he participated in roll-call votes in Washington that day at 1:10 a.m. and from 7:44 p.m. to 8:01 p.m.
“He was double-dipping at the taxpayers’ expense,” Landrieu said Tuesday. Her campaign released a TV commercial Tuesday charging that Cassidy has collected more than $100,000 “for medical work he didn’t do.”
Cassidy worked full time for two decades at the LSU Earl K. Long Medical Center in Baton Rouge until 2009. Under an arrangement with LSU, he continued to teach part-time for the university and was paid $20,000 a year, until taking a leave of absence in April to campaign for the Senate.
The time sheets that have been made public cover only about 16 months of Cassidy’s part-time service with LSU. They show that he received the same $1,666.70 payment each month regardless of how many hours he entered.
Under his arrangement with the university, he was expected to give 20 percent effort, according to emails between Cassidy and health system officials, which would calculate to about eight hours a week. Most of the records show about six hours per week — sometimes less.
In an interview Oct. 27, when copies of the documents first began circulating, Cassidy said the time sheets reflect only the time he spent in the clinic overseeing “residents,” as the student physicians are known. He also reviewed files and counseled LSU residents studying in Washington while there, and he conducted lectures in Baton Rouge that were not included in the time records, he said.
In medical school, residents see the patient, then discuss a treatment plan with the teacher — in this case, Cassidy. The teacher then will talk to the patient, review the records and oversee the treatment provided by the resident.
“I have medical students and residents who do internships in D.C. — saw one last night,” Cassidy said, adding that he also reads case files of the patients being treated by the residents. Few of those hours are logged. Cassidy, who specializes in treating liver diseases, also provides advice by phone to the nurse practitioner who runs the liver clinic at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, he said.
But Cassidy did say that the days when the records show him apparently working at a Baton Rouge hospital and voting in Washington were travel days, when House votes were held in the late afternoon and early evening.
He said he would log about three hours in the clinic on Monday, supervising residents who were treating patients, and three more hours on Tuesday morning. Then he would board a noon flight to Washington, which would put him on Capitol Hill by late afternoon, in time to make votes.
That schedule, though, does not readily match his documented activities in Congress on the Tuesdays in 2013 that were singled out by the Landrieu campaign.
Emails acquired by The Advocate indicated that LSU officials worried the situation could get audited and cautioned medical school officials to carefully detail the work Cassidy performed.
Cassidy called the monthly $1,666.70 a “stipend,” rather than a strict pay-for-hours-worked arrangement. He has said it didn’t matter what he did to earn the money.
Though some of the emails mention a contract, no actual contract has been released.
In January 2009, Ronnie Smith, then the vice chancellor at LSU Health Services Center wrote, “… it is in the University’s education interests to have Dr. Cassidy perform services on a greatly diminished basis …” He also wrote that Cassidy’s work should be documented “and appropriate adjustment” made, if necessary.
Cassidy was supposed to put in “20 percent effort,” but that was not defined in any of the available documentation.
Cassidy wrote LSU in January 2009 saying he was working five to 10 hours per week on medical school duties, which included time spent in state prison clinics and in discussing research issues. Cassidy asked how best to keep track of his time as signing a log book failed to capture many of his activities.
William Livings, the business manager at LSU Earl K. Long Medical Center, in March 2009 asked officials to spell out Cassidy’s duties. “I could make up some semblance of what I think his duties could be, but, in this case, given his status as U.S. congressman, I think it would be prudent from our perspective to know what it is y’all expect from him for his one-day per week (20 percent),” he wrote.
Landrieu has pressed Cassidy to provide records for his entire part-time service. But the Earl, as the Baton Rouge charity facility was known, closed in April 2013, and many of its documents were carted off to storage. LSU has been unable to find them, said Larry Hollier, chancellor of the LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, which oversaw the residents Cassidy taught.
Mark Ballard and Marsha Shuler, of The Advocate’s Capitol news bureau, contributed to this report. Follow Gregory Roberts on Twitter, @GregRobertsDC. For more coverage of government and politics, follow The Advocate Politics Blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog.