Despite Republican control of the House and Senate, health and insurance groups still contributed more to the Democratic Party than to the GOP in the latest 18-month period, according to a report released last week by a congressional watchdog group.
According to Common Cause, which monitors political spending and election financing, healthcare and health insurance groups donated $2,306,745 in "soft money" to the Democratic Party from January 1995 through June 1996. That was 25% more than the $1,847,525 the Republican Party received during the period. Soft money is donated to the political parties, rather than to an individual candidate, then is funneled to candidates by the parties. Unlike contributions to candidates, soft money donations aren't subject to federal limits.
Integrated Health Services, Owings Mills, Md., led the way with donations to the Democratic Party of nearly $300,000, according to the report. Marc Levin, executive vice president of Integrated, said the company wouldn't comment on political contributions. The company operates 600 post-acute, long-term-care and rehabilitation sites in 40 states.
The American Hospital Association donated more than $100,000 to the Democrats, the report said. But a study released earlier last month showed the AHA also donated nearly $200,000 to the Republicans.
Richard Pollack, AHA executive vice president of federal affairs, said donations to both parties generally increase as the political conventions near.
"There is no question that every four years our political support to both national parties increases relative to our participation in the political conventions," Pollack said.
The AHA has raised its profile by offering educational forums and social events at both of this year's conventions. Much of the spending detailed in the Common Cause studies occurred as a result, Pollack said, although he declined to offer specific spending figures.
While the AHA, Humana and the American Health Care Association gave to both parties, some groups-including the American Medical Association, Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. and First Hospital Corp.-gave almost exclusively to one party (See chart).
Contributions by healthcare groups were small compared with those of other organizations. For example, tobacco companies, led by Philip Morris' donation of more than $1.6 million, gave more than $4 million to the Republican Party, while giving $746,000 to the Democrats. Lawyers gave more than $4.8 million to the Democrats and $1.2 million to the Republicans.