Campaign Finance

Hospital PAC backs GOP House candidates

Rachael Marcus Oct 1, 2012

The political action committee of the American Hospital Association reported spending $968,000 on ads supporting Republican incumbent representatives in Louisiana, Washington, New York and Pennsylvania, all of whom sit on committees that oversee health care issues.

The ads support Reps. Charles Boustany Jr. in Louisiana’s 3rd District, Richard Hanna in New York’s 22nd  District, Tom Reed in New York’s 23rd District, Cathy McMorris Rodgers in Washington’s 5th District and  Jim Gerlach in Pennsylvania’s 6th District.

The American Hospital Association is a trade group representing hospitals and health care networks. It opposes any and all cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, supports lower costs for graduate medical education, wants to simplify regulatory requirements and favors lowering malpractice premiums for doctors.

The spending comes from the association’s regulated political action committee, which, unlike super PACs, can accept a maximum of $5,000 in contributions, but can make direct donations to candidates.

This is the PAC’s first reported independent expenditure in the election. However, it has contributed more than$761,000 to U.S. House and Senate candidates directly, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Its independent spending backs Republicans but its direct candidate contributions slightly favor Democrats.

All six candidates supported by the PAC’s outside spending have voted to repeal President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

While the AHA says both Obama’s health care plan and Rep. Paul Ryan’s alternative voucher plan include unacceptable cuts to Medicare, it sees the Affordable Care Act as the more immediate threat, according to a white paper published this year.

The American Hospital Association and several other health associations are also under pressure from the federal government for doctors’ practice of “upcoding” — billing Medicare for more advanced services than the patient may have actually received — a process recently investigated in the Center for Public Integrity’s project, “Cracking the Code.”

As a result, hospitals and doctors may be facing stepped up audits of their billing practices.

McCarthy Hennings Media, responsible for the infamous “Willie Horton” ad in 1988, produced the AHA’s ads. Mentzer Media Services, part of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign against Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004, made the ad buys. The consulting team also provides its services to pro-Mitt Romney super PAC Restore Our Future.

In other outside spending news:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released $3.8 million in ads over the weekend. Most targeted U.S. House races in California, all favored Republicans:

  • An ad opposing Democrat  and former astronaut Jose Hernandez in California’s 10th District cost $600,000;
  • An ad opposing Democratic state Sen. Alan Lowenthal in California’s 47th District cost $320,000;
  • An ad opposing Democrat and high school teacher Mark Takano in California’s 41st District cost $220,000;
  • An ad opposing Democrat  and physician Ami Bera in California’s 7th District cost $490,000;
  • An ad opposing Democratic state Assemblywoman Julia Brownley in California’s 26th District cost $400,000;
  • An ad opposing Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney in California’s 9th District cost $490,000;
  • An ad supporting Republican Rep. Brian Bilbray in California’s 52nd District cost $320,000.
  • The Chamber released a similar spot opposing Brad Schneider, the Democrat running for U.S. House in Illinois’ 10th District, for $550,000, and a spot opposing David Gill, the Democrat running in Illinois’ 13th District, for $500,000.
  • Restore Our Future reported spending $2.1 million on anti-Obama ads.
  • The Freedom and Liberty PAC, which supports former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for president, reported spending $250,000 on advertising, surveys and website work.  The Center reported in August that outside spending in favor of third party candidates could hurt Romney.
  • AFSCME PEOPLE, the political action committee of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, reported spending $784,000 on ads opposing Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Ohio, $259,000 opposing former wrestling executive Linda McMahon, the Republican running  for U.S. Senate in Connecticut, and $1 million on anti-Romney ads in Ohio and Virginia.
  • The National Association of Realtors Congressional Fund, a super PAC, reported spending $862,000 supporting Reps. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., Gary Miller, D-Calif., and Tom Latham, R-Iowa. All three are on committees that oversee housing issues.
  • Conservative nonprofit American Future Fund released “Fought,” supporting former Republican state Sen. Jonathan Paton in Arizona’s 1st District, and “Walk,” which criticizes his opponent, former Democratic U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick. The buy cost $1.5 million.
  • Seventies,” from the conservative nonprofit American Action Network, opposes former Rep. Rick Nolan, a Democrat, who is running in Minnesota’s 8th District. Congressional Leadership Fund, its affiliated super PAC, reported spending $132,000 opposing Texas state Rep. Pete Gallego, the Democratic candidate for U.S. House in the state’s 23rd District.
  • Crossroads GPS reported spending $439,000 on “Focus,” which opposes attorney Julian Schreibman, the Democratic candidate for U.S. House in New York’s 19th District. GPS also spent $214,000 on anti-Obama ads.
  • Independence Virginia PAC reported spending $234,000 opposing former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate. The super PAC is dedicated to helping Kaine’s opponent, former Sen. George Allen, win the seat. Its only listed donor is also the treasurer — Paul Bennecke, the former political director of the Republican Governors Association.
  • House Majority PAC, a super PAC supporting congressional Democrats, spent a total $1.9 million opposing Republicans.
  • Super PAC Planned Parenthood Votes is airing “Ask Mitt” in Colorado ahead of Wednesday’s first presidential debate, which is taking place at the University of Denver. It also released an ad opposing Rep. Denny Rehberg, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Montana. The super PAC reported spending $219,000 supporting Obama as well as Democrats.

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