The American Hospital Association has given nearly $200,000 to the Republican Party since the GOP took control of Congress in 1995, an election watchdog group reports.
The AHA's contributions of $198,600 between Jan. 1, 1995, and June 30, 1996, to Republican Party committees for state and local party activities made it the 56th-largest "soft money" donor to Republican political activities, according to a report from Washington-based Common Cause. The term "soft money" refers to contributions made to political parties rather than directly to individual candidates.
The AHA directly contributed about $195,000. The Hospital Association of Pennsylvania gave $2,000, and Richard Pollack, AHA executive vice president, gave $1,600, Common Cause said. The Common Cause report dealt only with GOP contributions; an analysis of Democratic donations is expected shortly.
AHA officials said some expenditures recorded as soft money donations were to help sponsor forums conducted by the Republican National Committee. Others were activities related to the Republican National Convention last week in San Diego, where the AHA tried to make its presence known (See stories, p. 2).
The AHA's soft money contributions came as the hospital industry group tried to smooth its occasionally tense relationship with congressional Republicans in the context of proposed changes to Medicare and Medicaid.
As Republicans in 1995 were drafting the Medicare reform plan later vetoed by President Clinton, the AHA ran advertisements criticizing the congressional Republican leadership's Medicare savings goals.
Republicans responded by grouping the AHA with the GOP's "opponents" and reminding members that AHA contributions to Democratic congressional candidates in the previous election had been more than twice that of their contributions to Republicans.
AHA officials acknowledged that there has been a general shift toward Republicans in their campaign spending.
The officials cited increased pressure for lobbying groups to contribute to the national campaign committees.