Editor’s Note: Scripps Howard Foundation Wire reporters examined overall campaign contributions in this election cycle and looked at contributions by three industry groups: casinos,health care and banking. Their reporting was based on Federal Election Commission data analyzed by the Center for Responsive Politics. This is the third of four stories.
WASHINGTON – The health-care industry’s political giving is more bipartisan this year than it has been in the past.
While health industry donations to political campaigns have remained level in recent years,patterns of giving have shifted away from conservative candidates this election cycle. In some cases,money has swung widely to the left. However,health industry groups said this represents a candidate-by-candidate evaluation of who promotes the industry’s interests.
Campaign giving from the health industry is down marginally since the last midterm election cycle in 2006. While the current election season is projected to generate the same amount of direct money as the 2006 season,$54 million,that represents a roughly $5.5 million drop when adjusted for inflation.
“One of the things we’ve seen is that they’ve stepped back. They’re trying not to be the center of focus,” said David Johnson,CEO of the Strategic Vision. Strategic Vision is a public relations firm based in Atlanta that,among other things,works on Republican political campaigns.
Since the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994,conservative candidates have edged out liberals in health industry contributions in midterm elections. The largest gap occurred in 2006,when Republican candidates received 63 percent of the $54 million that health professionals contributed. Republicans,however,lost control of both houses of Congress that year.
Estimates for the current cycle from the Center for Responsive Politics put health industry giving to Democrats and Republicans as about equal. As of Oct. 25,Republican candidates received $27.5 million in contributions,and Democratic candidates received $26.6 million,according to FEC filings.
During the 2006 election cycle,the American Hospital Association gave $1.1 million to Republican candidates and $900,000 to Democratic candidates. Since 2008,however,the group has given $1.1 million to Democrats and $500,000 to Republicans.
“The reality of it is,is that we are big and we are diverse and have a whole multitude of issues,” said Mark Seklecki,vice president of political affairs for the American Hospital Association.
Medical technology,Medicare and malpractice,he said,are issues being weighed by the AHA. Seklecki said after health-care reform passed last year, the focus has shifted in part to the implementation of reform,especially because it will be years before the reform takes full effect.
“It was huge. It will be with us for a long time,” he said.
Seklecki said the American Hospital Association’s donation policy is driven by requests from its members to support particular candidates and requests from candidates to attend events. The AHA examines candidates’ voting records and bases how much to give at least partly on how contested the race is.
“We’re constantly fundraising around the country,and occasionally we’ll find a candidate that wants us to come and attach ourselves to an event,” Selecki said. “In September,when Congress is in town,we get hundreds of requests and have to go through them.”
Michael Graham,interim senior vice president for government affairs of the American Dental Association,said the ADA observes candidates and judges them from a practitioner’s perspective as well as a small business owner’s and health care user’s perspective.
“The ADA supports candidates who understand dentistry,care about our nation’s oral health and make the time to visit the dentist and get perspective back home,” Graham said.
The ADA is giving about 15 percent less money this election cycle than it did in 2006. This cycle,the organization gave Democrats $797,150 and Republicans $776,450,contrasted with the previous midterm election,when it donated 63 percent to Republicans.