Records show U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais received a large contribution from a Maryland-based nuclear energy company just days before he wrote a letter to government officials requesting federal loan guarantees for their project.
DesJarlais previously denied authoring the letters altogether in written correspondence with Department of Energy Secretary Stephen Chu, but a USA Today investigation found letters with his signature written to the Office of Management and Budget asking for swift loan approval for USEC Inc.'s American Centrifuge project.
"Now we know why Congressman DesJarlais denied writing the letters," said State Senator Eric Stewart (D-Belvidere), who is challenging Desjarlais for the fourth district seat this fall. "I support the project because it brings good jobs to Tennessee, but I am disappointed that our Congressman's crass money grab has put the project at risk."
One of the letters is dated November 4 and requests "immediate action on funding", just 5 days after USEC Inc.'s Political Action Committee contributed $1000 to DesJarlais' campaign, according to Federal Election Commission reports.
"How much is Rep. DesJarlais' influence selling for these days?" asked Stewart. "For over a year, he has refused to hold a live town hall meeting in this district to hear concerns of constituents, yet only four days after receiving a contribution from a lobbyist he writes a letter seeking funds for the project."
USEC Inc. also gave $1,000 to the DesJarlais re-election campaign on March 14, which prompted a May 13, 2011 letter by DesJarlais to Jacob J. Lewis, Director of the federal Office of Management and Budget, urging him to "make rapid completion of USEC Inc.'s loan guarantee application for American Centrifuge a top priority for the Office of Management and Budget.
"Unfortunately, it seems $1000 is the magic number for anyone in the Fourth District seeking help from Rep. DesJarlais, whose influence is obviously for sale," Stewart said.