Political lies have real consequences. Ask Eric Conn’s victims. | Opinion

Politicians are known to lie or simply exaggerate to make a point. Occasionally the falsehoods cause damage.

A case in point is the late Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn. Coburn was a doctor, well respected by his fellow Senators, and he gained national prominence by calling attention to the suspicious activities of our now imprisoned local embarrassment (Eric Conn). Conn famously appeared before Coburn’s Senate Committee and took the 5th amendment.

When the details of Conn’s criminal scheming became known, Coburn could have kept his condemnation to the perpetrator but he took it a step further: without a shred of evidence, he announced that all of the former Conn clients were in on the “scam”.

Not true. Coburn had no reason to believe it was true, but it sounded good. There is zero evidence of any client involvement in Conn’s wrongdoing. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find a former Conn client who met Conn. This is what is known as a “lie”.

Why did this particular lie cause damage?

The Social Security Administration followed Coburn’s lead. He was politically prominent, and influential.

Eight years ago they began scheduling redetermination hearings for the former clients — over 2000 of them. This in itself may not sound so bad but the structure of these hearings brought back memories of another Senator who lied —Joe McCarthy.

Every hearing commenced with the former Conn clients being told there was a secret finding of fraud that they could not challenge. The finding was based on an investigative report no one affected was allowed to read. The hearings were rigged against the former clients; who were associated with Conn, and presumed guilty of all his crimes.

Its been eight years and, thanks to the greatest volunteer lawyer effort in the history of the nation, the federal courts have universally agreed with Judge Thapar that they were “ star chamber “ hearings. Yet, real damage has been done.

Did Senator Coburn’s original lie fuel the raging fire that has terrorized so many of my vulnerable neighbors here in Appalachia?

Clearly not all the lies politicians tell cause damage. Coburn’s lie did. Just ask my neighbors.

Ned Pillersdorf is head of Pillersdorf Law Offices in Prestonsburg and has led the fight for the victims of Eric Conn.

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