Stimulus 'hypocrisy' not just for incumbents

You don't need to be a member of Congress to be accused of "stimulus hypocrisy."

Dr. Ron Kirkland (R) is a good example of that. Kirkland made a splash last week by announcing $365,000 raised in one month for the race to replace Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn.). But even as a well-funded political newcomer, he might have his own stimulus issues to deal with -- especially in the GOP primary.

As a recent president of the American Medical Group Association (AMGA), Kirkland last year touted the group's work in getting a payment to doctors inserted into the stimulus package.

According to Modern Healthcare Online:

… the conference’s record-breaking 1,600 attendees were welcomed by the AMGA’s immediate past chairman, Ronald Kirkland, board chairman of the Jackson (Tenn.) Clinic Professional Association, who noted how congressional staffers reached out to AMGA’s public policy team while drafting the health information technology portions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – including one midnight call to help with the final language – and this led, in part, to the inclusion of an $18,000 subsidy for physicians who adopt information technology.

Democrats have been hitting Republicans for voting against the stimulus package while promoting their work in bringing home projects and money contained in the bill. But in this case, it is likely to be Kirkland’s primary opponents taking up the line of attack.

Kirkland said it was a matter of doctors getting help dealing with a government mandate on electronic medical records.

“If the government is going to require that, then it’s an unfunded mandate unless they are going to pay for it,” he said. “It is just trying to change an unfunded mandate to a funded mandate.”

Even if the stimulus hit is successful, it’s going to be hard trying to paint Kirkland as any kind of insider – especially after NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions raised money for Kirkland’s primary opponent, Stephen Fincher, on Friday.

Fincher’s campaign announced Monday that it had raised $30,000 with the chairman’s help.

Kirkland, who by chance was set to meet with the NRCC on Monday, said his campaign is better off without such help.

“Our campaign has accelerating momentum because I have not been anointed by Washington insiders like Fincher and (Democratic state Sen. Roy) Herron,” Kirkland said. “Eighth congressional district voters don't trust Washington, period.”

The NRCC is happy to cast its lot with Fincher, even though Kirkland and another well-funded doctor, Shelby County Commissioner George Flinn, have entered the primary since Tanner’s retirement.